Questions About Duck Bands

Ducks (Image: "Do you ever get the feeling people are talking about you behind your back!" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: foxypar4 (John Haslam) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Ducks are banded for a number of reasons. The Harvest Information Program (HIP) for Migratory Birds uses data gleaned from ducks with bands for aerial surveys designed to keep track of wintering and breeding areas. The use of data from these leg bands is critical for waterfowl management and research. Ducks are tracked by information on their bands, allowing researchers to better understand their longevity, migration and dispersal, population, survival, productivity, behavior and even social structure.

What Techniques Are Used to Catch the Ducks?

Ducks are most commonly caught using baited traps, though other techniques may also be used. Diving ducks can be herded into drive traps while they are molting and unable to fly. Wood ducks can be caught using nest boxes or walk-in and swim-in traps that have been baited. Wintering ducks are generally caught using rocket nets or swim-in trap varieties.

What is the Purpose of Double Banding?

All banded ducks feature a standard aluminum-style leg band, but some ducks are double banded. The additional band will either be a green reward band or a leg band that is color coded so that the duck may be identified even from a distance. Despite these special bands, a banded duck will still always have the standard aluminum band for tracking purposes.

What Are Reward Bands?

Some of the duck bands that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service uses are reward bands. These bands are typically placed on birds that have reached the adult stage of growth. When a duck is found with a reward band, the government will pay between $25 and $100 for accurate reporting of the information on the band. This ensures that the information will be reported so that the bands can be put to use.

Who Bands Ducks?

A federal banding permit is required for anyone who wants to band birds, according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Some states may also require the possession of a state permit on top of the federal banding permit. Applying for a banding permit means being able to prove the ability to trap, handle and band ducks safely. Duck banding professionals are a small group, with only 2,000 issued master banding permits, and 3,000 issued submerits so far in the United States.

How Many Birds Are Banded?

As many as a million birds are banded every year, although there are no exact specifics. According to the Bird Banding Laboratory at, in the year 2001, 222,006 ducks were successfully banded, and 48,576 bands were recovered or reported on.

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