Bemidji area waterfowl banding helps officials monitor populations
BEMIDJI – It was 95 degrees last Saturday at noon in Tucson, Ariz. and the temperature was expected to rise a few more degrees before peaking.
According to Linda, 98 degrees is above normal for late September in Tucson but anything below 100 is considered comfortable in the Desert Southwest.
Linda wasn’t worried about the temperature, however, because she was at her air conditioned desk fielding phone calls for the U.S. Geological Survey Department about recovered waterfowl bands.
Among the calls Linda took Saturday was one concerning the bird wearing band number 1837-85921.
The bird, a juvenile hen mallard, was banded along the east shoreline of Lake Bemidji on July 3 by Jim Berdeen and was harvested at 10 a.m. on the opening day of the Minnesota waterfowl hunting season in a wild rice area about eight miles north of Bemidji.
Berdeen is the banding coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Wetlands Research Group and is based at the Bemidji office.
On July 3, the day after the area was pummeled by 85-mile per hour winds, Berdeen and his crew were working in the Lavinia area when they trapped and banded a group of flightless young mallards. Among them was the bird which later would be fitted with band 1837-85921.
“We started banding on July 1 and we go until right before the hunting season,” Berdeen said. “We work every day that we can. When you try to develop (survival) models you need a lot of data so we work as much as we can.”
Berdeen and his crew banded 564 mallards this season, including 416 in the immediate Bemidji area. They also trapped and banded goldeneyes, ringnecks, redheads and canvasbacks and placed bands on 150 Canada geese. Berdeen also banded about 20 mourning doves in his back yard.
DNR officials stationed around Minnesota teamed to band 4,000 Canada geese and about 1,000 doves this season while volunteers throughout Minnesota placed bands on about 60 woodcock.
Mallard No. 1837-85921 was among a group of juveniles which had not reached the age of flight on July 3. Wildlife officials were able to herd the group into a net where they were captured, studied and banded.
Later in the summer Berdeen and his associates will capture young of the year birds that can fly, sometimes with the aid of rocket-charged nets, and they will never pass on an adult when they can coax one into the net.
“We are looking at survival rates,” Berdeen said of the banding program. “We are looking at the pattern of how many survive year to year. (No. 1837-85921) was shot in its first year but we also have had bands show up 20 years later.”
As expected, the recovery distribution pattern of the Minnesota-banded mallards predominantly follows the Mississippi Flyway but flightless juvenile mallards have been harvested later that fall and winter as far away as northern Manitoba, northern Maine, Florida, Virginia and the east coast of North Carolina.
Mallards of all ages that were banded in Minnesota during the summer also tend to remain within the flyway but banded birds have been recovered in Canada, Maine and in California.
“The brunt of the mallards (banded in Minnesota) are shot in the Mississippi flyway),” Berdeen said. “And it is a great help to us when hunters call (when they shoot a banded bird).”
The annual harvest of the juvenile flightless mallards varies but the best estimates indicate that between three percent and 19 percent of the juveniles are shot during that fall’s hunting season.
“(Those numbers) vary year to year and vary by sex and the time of the year,” Berdeen said.
Reporting a band recovery is simple. A toll-free number and mailing address are listed on the band along with the band’s number.
According to officials of the U.S. Geological Survey department, about 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904. About four million bands have been recovered and reported, among them No. 1837-85921.