Flight feathers tell a story

by Barney Moorhouse | November 24, 2020
female mallard in flight

Researchers can now get a better sense of where waterfowl originated by studying birds’ flight feathers.

By analyzing flight feathers from hunter-harvested waterfowl using stable isotope methods, researchers can “infer the general location of where either hatching or molting took place,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation researcher Matthew Palumbo, formerly of Western University in London, Ontario.

This, he said, in conjunction with information collected by banding, can enhance the information waterfowl managers receive. 

“Banding data are still vital to manage waterfowl populations and using stable isotopes is another tool in the toolbox that managers can use. This approach does not replace banding. Everyone should report their bands to help aid in sustainable management of waterfowl populations,” Palumbo added.

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