They hypnotize us, mesmerize us, enchant, haunt and beguile us. But most of all, the bands that glimmer from the legs of our waterfowl help us conserve our resource.
In North America, John James Audubon, the great American naturalist and artist, conducted the first bird banding in 1803. In 1922, the first large-scale banding took place, and recovery of banded birds accumulated so rapidly that by 1930 it was possible to map out the four flyways, a complicated series of migration routes. Biologists band more than 200,000 ducks and nearly 150,000 geese and swans each year. About 85,000 bands are reported annually. More than 7 million mallards have been banded. The oldest fowl recorded was a Canada goose that lived 33 years. A geriatric lesser snow was 26, a mallard made it to 27—despite Wildfowl’s wonderful how-to articles—and a black duck made it to 26! This we know for one reason only: their bands told the tale. When you score a bejeweled bird this season, go to reportband.gov to learn the species, sex, age and location of the bird when it was banded.