Background

Engaging hunters in duck wing surveys

Richard Hearn, Matthieu Guillemain & David Scallan

Most ducks are popular quarry throughout Europe and, on average, their numbers have been healthy in recent decades as a result of conservation actions such as habitat management at important sites. However, several huntable duck species are now showing signs of decline, epitomised by the Common Pochard, which has declined considerably in recent years.

In response, there is growing recognition of the need to improve our knowledge of the population dynamics of these species, and use this information to improve the way we manage them. 

Some key gaps in our knowledge include the age structure of these populations and the trends in their annual breeding success. Much of what we know about these parameters comes from duck ringing programmes, but unfortunately fewer ducks are being ringed in Europe nowadays, for various reasons including a lack of financial support, so we lack sufficient contemporary data. Hunters also handle a large number of birds; several million ducks are harvested in Europe each year. They are therefore in an excellent position to help collect demographic data with which we can better understand the dynamics of huntable duck populations. 

Such information provided by hunters could also help to improve our understanding of where to focus conservation action. For example, poor breeding success could be driven by predation on key breeding grounds. Some excellent duck wing survey schemes managed by hunters are already in place in Europe (e.g. Finland, Denmark and more recently France). However, more information from other countries and regions would greatly enhance our understanding of the dynamics of European ducks.

In order to facilitate this, the French Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) has produced a guide to the ageing and sexing of common huntable ducks, originally published in French and now also available in English. The guide includes concise text explaining which specific criteria to consider for each species, supplemented by tens of original photographs of wings and other specific plumage features. The guide is available to download from ONCFS (in French) or the Wetlands International / IUCN SSC Duck Specialist Group (in English). 

FACE encourages all national organisations representing waterbird hunters to develop local and/or national schemes. In order to harmonise methods, please consult with FACE during the development of any new scheme.

For further information and guidance, please contact the Duck Specialist Group via our website (http://www.ducksg.org/about/contact-us/). 

  • SEE THE FRENCH VERSION HERE: FR