Counting wood ducks

by Steve Galea | May 24, 2022
a floating wood duck

The Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry’s (NDMNRF) Airboat Duck Banding program returned for its 25th season late in the summer of 2021.

Science Operations Supervisor Larissa Nituch released the Ontario Airboat Duck Banding program annual report this spring, which detailed how the crew took a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but banded 891 ducks from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. Last year was different, however, in that the program only utilized one, rather than the usual two airboats, and six NDMNRF staff. Volunteers were not allowed to participate in last year’s banding program due to the pandemic.

The banders visited 11 southern and central Ontario waters in 12 nights and banded 891 ducks. Last year was the fourth consecutive banding year that wood ducks had the highest yearly species composition (36%) in the 25 years the program has been in operation. Prior to 2017, mallards had the highest species composition each year.

Wood duck numbers up

In addition to having the highest species composition for 2021, wood ducks were also above their long-term species composition average of 21%. Mallards, wood ducks, and blue-winged teals have the highest 25-year composition averages comprising of 36%, 21%, and 11% respectively.

The program has banded and released more than 56,000 waterfowl in its history, and over 10,000 of those have been recovered, adding greatly to North America’s knowledge and ability to responsibly manage waterfowl populations and their habitats. That’s an 18% return rate, mostly by waterfowl hunters.

The banders also gathered samples for the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative’s (CWHC) live bird avian influenza virus testing for the fifth year by swabbing 326 waterfowl. They also aided other researchers by providing feather samples.

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