Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What I Learned From A Wood Duck

As part of my quest to take responsibility for my food sources and eat a more traditional diet, I spend a few days’ duck hunting in the fall. This year, I shot a Wood Duck that had a band on its leg. It’s my first banded bird ever. Wood Ducks are all special, beautiful birds but what this band represents is something that we cannot get anywhere else: actual details about the duck’s life. I couldn’t wait to report it and find out anything I could.

The little 1 and a half pound male duck was hatched and banded in South Carolina and flew a 1600km migration each way (twice a year) for the five years of his life. Because of banding, science has learned so much about species populations and so it is understood that, 75% of the time, ducks will come back to the same breeding and wintering grounds each year. It’s fairly safe to say that this little Wood Duck probably loved my favourite marsh as much, if not more, than I do.
Am I sad that I killed this duck to feed myself? For me, hunting is very emotional. The killing part is not a part I enjoy but I would much rather take the responsibility of doing it myself, knowing that it died as humanely as possible of my own hands. But I’m also very keen on knowing how the animal lived. With the help of science and the banding programs, now I know more.
I already knew that “my” marsh provides a healthy place for Wood Ducks to thrive given the population that come back each year. Even though I knew about migrations, getting information from that little band really drives home the kinds of distances these ducks go to. It reinforces the very real importance of wetlands and other habitat all along the flyways. It greatly opens up my appreciation for the life I took in order to nourish myself. That little band has given me a whole new perspective on the Wood Duck and that is something I have never found, and likely never will, from buying my meat in a grocery store. I am thankful there is still a bird banding program in the US. It's the kind of science that overlaps and informs us on the environment and so much more.

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