SCWA Partners with Delta, UGA and USFWS on Ring-necked Research

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association has partnered with the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, the University of Georgia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the annual movements of ring-necked ducks that winter in South Carolina. The research project is part of a larger study that is also focusing on ring-necked ducks that winter in South Georgia.

Lead investigator for the project, Mark McConnell, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Outreach at the University of Georgia, and graduate student Tori Mezebish have been working on this research project since the 2016-2017 waterfowl hunting season. As evidenced by their hard work last week, McConnell reiterated, “We have put a tremendous amount of time, effort and resources into getting these birds captured and marked. It’s a fun project and could not be done without the incredible skill and dedication of our wildlife veterinarians.”

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Ring-necks are very important to South Carolina duck hunters. They consistently rank number 2, 3 or 4 in the annual South Carolina waterfowl harvest. From November 27-30th, 28 hens and 2 drakes were collected from the SCWA Black Dog duck pond and surgically implanted with satellite or GPS transmitters , 10 of which were funded by generous SCWA members. These radios will last for up to 10 months and will provide information on the movements and habitat preferences of ring-necked ducks throughout their wintering, spring migration, breeding and brood rearing portions of their annual life cycle.

McConnell relayed, “This research is both novel and important. We are the first ones to ever put an internal transmitter into a ring-necked duck. It is also important because we know very little about ring-necked duck’s wintering habitat use and migration strategies. We are hoping to learn what types of wetlands they prefer during winter. Migration is a crucial time of year for migratory waterfowl, so understanding their routes and stopover sites can inform managers on how to better provide quality waterfowl habitat during migration.”

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An intensive 22-25 hours of surgery were performed by Michele Goodman, Director of Veterinary Services for the Elmwood Park Zoo in Pennsylvania. When asked about what this opportunity means to her, Goodman communicated, “I enjoy participating in these projects for a number of reasons – implanting satellite transmitters is one of the most reliable ways to get good information on waterfowl movement and behavior which can ultimately lead to more targeted conservation initiatives. These projects are also a huge collaboration – I like working with graduate students, biologists and conservation organizations. As someone who spends most of my time working with captive animals, it’s also a tremendous privilege to get to work with wild birds.”

You will be able to track the movements of the ring-necks by visiting the Delta Waterfowl Foundation website here, and we hope to put the weekly updated movements on the SCWA website as well.

If you harvest one of these ducks, please save the duck and contact SCWA at (803) 452-6001 or USFWS at (803) 478-2217. The duck will be banded and have a short wire antenna sticking out of its back. Researchers would like to examine the body condition of any birds that are harvested by hunters to analyze if the radios have any negative effect on the body condition of the duck.

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