Wildlife - Waterfowl Project Report

April 2005

Banding and Band Return Analysis

Banding waterfowl and analyzing band return data represent 2 of the most important tasks undertaken by waterfowl managers. Waterfowl banding data are vital to understand population parameters such as species and aggregate harvest and survival rates, species derivation and harvest distribution, and wintering habitat site fidelity. An emphasis was placed on waterfowl trapping and banding by field personnel during 2003-04 and 2004-05. DNR staff banded 2,709 and 1,115 waterfowl during the respective late winter periods of 2004 and 2005. Table X provides a summary of banding activities during both years.

It is premature to apply rigorous statistical analysis to recent post-season banding data related to SC, but pertinent information has been revealed despite lack of formal analysis. Traditionally it was believed SC wintering green-winged teal originated from eastern Canada. A large portion of the wintering green-winged teal population is derived from this region, but post-season banding indicates a segment also is affiliated with points farther west. Post-season banding also has revealed many blue-winged teal have winter fidelity to SC, arriving in September, rather than continuing to migrate farther south as previously believed.

Continuing pre-season and post-season banding will build on previous banding efforts in the state. Various studies have included SC post-season banding data as well as pre-season banding data from other states where ducks were recovered in SC. Most work centers on mallards, the most numerous duck and the species with the most bandings in North America. Banding analysis has demonstrated wintering SC mallards are affiliated with Great Lakes and Prairie Pothole regions of North America. Pre-season band recoveries indicate nearly 75% of mallards wintering in SC are derived west of western Pennsylvania and southwestern Ontario, and very few mallards wintering in SC are derived from mid-Atlantic or Northeastern regions of the AF. Recent mallard satellite-telemetry data has reaffirmed these banding data.

Current harvest regulations in the Atlantic flyway under AHM are based on the Eastern Mallard Model. Research has demonstrated SC, and portions of North Carolina, more appropriately fit under the Mid-continent Mallard Model since the majority of the SC wintering waterfowl population is derived from regions encompassed by this model. As long as breeding habitat in both regions is exceptional the misplacement is probably not detrimental to SC. However, when conditions on the prairies are poor, which is more likely than in eastern Canada given the dynamic nature of prairie ecology, waterfowl wintering in SC will be subject to more liberal regulations than should be recommended for the population.