Duck Frenzy

By Mariah Simmons

Duck Banding Image Credit: Miranda Butler Valverde

The New Mexico State University Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society recently participated in duck banding with the USFWS. Student chapter members Isidro Barela, Miranda Butler-Valverde, and John Townsend volunteered to capture and band ducks at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during the annual Festival of the Cranes.

Duck Banding

Isidro Barela opens the wing of a Green-winged Teal drake to display it’s brilliant green speculum.
Image Credit: Miranda Butler Valverde

The students assisted refuge biologists John Vrandenburg and Ashley Mertz with the deployment of rocket nets, identifying species, aging, and sexing the waterfowl. Afterwards, student chapter members assisted other festival attendees in banding and releasing the ducks. Species banded included Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, and Mallards.

Miranda Butler-Valverde, student chapter Vice President, described the net deployment and capture as an exciting yet hectic experience.

“Everyone was in a frenzy to try to grab and untangle the ducks under the net. The water was ice cold and every duck fought to escape,” she said.

“We caught around 130 ducks,” said Miranda. “For the ducks that were already banded we recorded wing chord and weight and released them right away. [Afterwards] we loaded crates with the remaining ducks and transferred them to another pond area where the general public was allowed to help band and release the ducks.”

Duck Banding

Miranda Butler-Valverde holds a Northern Pintail drake before banding.
Image Credit: Isidro Barela

Waterfowl banding helps wildlife biologists estimate the population dynamics of various species as well as analyze their life history. Each year biologists band more than 200,000 ducks and nearly 150,000 geese and swans throughout North America.

Isidro Barela also found the experience to be very rewarding.

“Volunteering with professionals in our field…at such a wonderful wildlife refuge here in New Mexico was an excellent training and educational experience. We were able to practice skills such as bird identification, wildlife capturing and surveying methods, as well as public education – which are all invaluable skills in the wildlife sciences field,” he said.

The student chapter members believe it is experiences like these which help students to strengthen their passion for the field.

Duck Banding

Jacob Townsend helps a young boy release a Northern Pintail.
Image Credit: Miranda Butler Valverde

“[These experiences] drive us to do what we love by doing our best for wildlife management and conservation,” Isidro said.

“Not only was it an amazing experience to be a part of the duck capture, but it was just as rewarding to see the [children] and adults faces light up when they were able to help release the ducks. It was great to see the community interested in the local wildlife and the refuge biologists at work,” said Miranda.

The student chapter plans to help the refuge band more ducks in January 2015. For more information on the chapter’s future activities visit their Facebook page.

Sources: Flyways.us, Miranda Butler-Valverde, Isidro Barela