Readers may remember a column I did last spring about the extinction of the passenger pigeon during the 19th century.
When this country was first founded, the skies and land teemed with an amazing variety of wildlife. Over the following decades, millions of birds and other wildlife were killed to supply food for restaurants.
Unregulated sport hunting, and collecting feathers for the fashion industry also contributed to the loss. Millions of acres of wetlands were drained to feed and house an ever-growing population. As a result, a huge area of waterfowl breeding and nesting habitat was lost. Add to this Mother Nature's toll with floods and droughts, and you get a very bleak picture of what was to come.
In 1934,The Federal government and an increasingly concerned nation took steps to stop the destruction of wetlands vital to migratory waterfowl.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. Under the act, all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older must annually buy and carry a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp — better known as the Federal Duck Stamp.
When first issued for the 1934-35 duck season, the price of the stamp was one dollar. Over the years, the fee has increased periodically and today is $25. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar goes directly to wetlands and wildlife habitat. Since that initial date, $800 million dollars has gone into that fund.
Through the years, wildlife artists have been responsible for the design and breed of bird pictured on the stamp. They have been a great source for stamp collectors across the country and early issues have become quite valuable. Many hunters buy two stamps for this reason, because the one on your license has to be signed. This program has been called one of the most successful conservation projects ever initiated.
The North American Bird Banding Program is jointly administered by the U.S. Geological Survey ( a bureau within the Department of the Interior) and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Bird banding is one of the most useful tools in the modern study of wild birds. The wild birds are captured and marked with a uniquely numbered band or ring placed on the leg. The bander records where and when each bird is banded, how old it is, what sex, and any other information.
This data is sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Information from bands that are found later and reported to the lab provides data on the movement of the species, their numbers, annual production, life span, and causes of death. This information increases our knowledge and understanding of birds and their habits and assists us in their management and conservation.
I wish I had saved all the duck stamps I have purchased over the last 65 years of waterfowling. Some of the early ones would be worth something to a collector, I would think. And, I well remember the first duck I bagged that had a band on it. It was during the late 1950s, and it was a male mallard.
I sent in the band number and found out it was tagged five years earlier in British Columbia. Over the years, my friends got a few and I managed to pick up three or four additional. When guiding for Black Brant at Morro Bay in the '70s, we used to see a lot of them for some reason.
During one 30 day season, I remember my hunters picking up at least 15 or more. While on a hunt in Mexico for this bird, a friend of mine once bagged a bird with one on each leg. A real rarity.
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