February 23, 2018
Taking a greenhead in the southern Mississippi Flyway is hardly unusual. After all, each fall the greatest concentration of migratory mallards in North America funnels through the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, which extends roughly from southern Illinois to the Mississippi Delta. Even a banded mallard it not terribly unusual as researchers continually study our most populous duck. But Tennessee waterfowler Todd Elzie managed to find a rather interesting specimen last year.
Mild temperatures that had plagued eastern waterfowlers all fall persisted right into December and though a big storm had recently moved across the country, Christmas Eve was a bluebird day in west Tennessee.
"My son Brandon and I were hunting together on a local river as we do quite regularly," Elzie began, "hunting from a blind where he had taken a banded hen mallard the week before."
Despite less than favorable weather, the duo had already shot three wood ducks when three mallards pitched toward their spread and worked directly into the decoys.Â Elzie called the shot and after the shooting was done all three birds were down.
They boated out to retrieve the ducks, picking up Brandon's two first, followed by Todd's greenhead. "When we put it in the boat I immediately saw the band. What a Christmas present!" he said. The following week Brandon took yet another banded mallard out of the same blind, but neither of his was as interesting as the one his father collected.
"When I received the information on the recovery," Elzie said, "I was quite surprised to see that the bird came from California, and was at least 10 years old. I have been fortunate enough to take several banded birds but this is the first one I've had travel so far east."
He speculated it might have been carried east on the storm, which is certainly a possibility. Or perhaps somewhere over his 10-year lifespan that old greenhead hooked up with a California girl and followed her home. Either way, it makes for an interesting tale.