A band on a bird is much more than a coveted hunting trophy. It represents a wealth of information helping biologists understand waterfowl populations,  movements and health, while providing a tool for wildlife agencies to set science-based bag limits and season lengths. 

That’s why CWA bands thousands of birds every year - 8,787 in 2016. In all, around 45,000 birds have been recovered with our bands attached.

We’re doing our part to study waterfowl populations. And all that jewelry for hunters doesn’t hurt either!

Below are some answers to common questions about banding.

Q: How do we catch the birds?

We catch birds using several methods.

Rocket nets: Typically two or three 60 by 30 foot nets are set along a levee or island near birds that are loafing or feeding. Anchors are attached to the back of the net and rockets are attached to the front. The nets are folded up into a long, narrow strip, which expands when the rockets are launched. For a closer look, check out the video below.

Bait traps: These traps, pictured to the right, are large circular cages with a small, baited funnel. The birds feed their way in through the funnel into the trap and can’t find their way out.

On nests: Hen wood ducks are easy to catch because they nest in boxes. Ground nesting species are caught while incubating their nests with a long-handled fishing net.

Egg Salvage: Many of the birds we band are hatched from eggs rescued from farm fields. The ducklings are banded and released at 5 weeks of age.

Q: Do we double band birds?

No. Ducks are only double banded for certain reasons. The second band is usually a reward band to determine reporting rates. Sometimes, however, researchers will put a larger colored band for identification at a distance.

Q: What information do we get from bands?

Banding waterfowl gives us a better understanding of their survival, movements, and hunting pressure across different ages and sexes of birds. The banding data of certain species is incorporated into the adaptive harvest management models, which dictates bag limits of the different species in different flyways.

Q: Do we gather information from the birds when we band them?

Yes. We often take measurements of wing length (pictured) and body weight, which helps us get a better idea of the health and body condition of the birds. When we find nests we will record various information about the eggs, the nest, and the surrounding vegetation. 



Check out this video about how we use rocket nests to band pintails.