Goose Banding Facts

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goose hunter with a banded White-Fronted Goose
A happy goose hunter with a banded White-Fronted Goose. Goose hunters are encouraged to report goose bands to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Information gathered from goose bands is essential for developing annual goose hunting regulations and conservation programs.

Reward bands are inscribed with a dollar amount the person who reports the band will receive, usually $25 to $100. They are used for a variety of studies on band reporting rates that help agencies determine appropriate harvest levels and evaluate band reporting methods.

Colored second bands with no dollar amount are visual markers used by researchers who want to identify geese at a distance. These should be reported along with regular band numbers.

Why Band Geese?

When a goose is fitted with a leg band, all the information gathered by the bander is sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory. There it is entered into a computer database. If a band is later reported, scientists can use the information to learn more about a species.

During the earliest days of goose banding, researchers simply wanted to know more about goose migration. But today, band returns also provide information about a species’ abundance, distribution, numbers, life span, causes of death and more. Data from banded geese are used to monitor population levels, assess the effects of environmental disturbances and address concerns such as bird hazards at airports and crop depredations.

Results from banding studies also support national and international conservation programs such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Each year, biologists thoroughly analyze band returns and use the information to assess hunting pressure, estimate productivity and survival, and measure the vulnerability of the age/sex classes to hunting pressure. This information is essential for developing the goose hunting regulations each of us must follow to assure goose populations are properly managed.

Jack Miner an early pioneer of goose banding
Jack Miner of Ontario, Canada was an early pioneer in goose banding.

Goose-Banding Facts

Biologists band more than 100,000 geese each year, with information recovered for large numbers of those birds. In 2001, for example, 132,295 geese (including brants) were banded and 39,766 bands were recovered.

Canada Geese are banded far more often than other goose species, with more than 2.8 million banded since 1914. In the Central Flyway alone, between 1970 and 1998, 243,000 Canada Geese were banded.

Snow Geese rank second in numbers banded at approximately 750,000, followed by White-Fronted Geese (122,000), Black Brants (107,000), Ross’s geese (76,000) and Atlantic Brants (31,000).

Not surprisingly, the goose bands most often found on goose hunters’ lanyards are those found on commonly banded species such as Canada geese (more than 715,000 recoveries), Snow Geese (118,000) and White-Fronted Geese (22,000). Among the real rarities are the 145 bands recovered 9,500 banded emperor geese. Rarer still are bands from barnacle geese and Hawaiian geese. Should you have a barnacle goose band, it’s one of only nine ever recovered (only 11 barnacle geese have been banded). And only four Hawaiian goose bands have been recovered from the 700-plus birds that have been banded.

Reporting a Band

Of the more than 1 million birds banded each year in North America, 87 percent of all recoveries reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory are from waterfowl. Surprisingly, however, of all the banded birds killed by goose hunters, only 30 to 40 percent are reported. Given the tremendous cost associated with the banding effort and the reliance on banding as an essential management and research tool, the loss of data associated with this low band-reporting rate is regrettable.

Any goose band you recover is yours to keep, and reporting information is easy. To report a band via the Internet, visit www.reportband.gov. To report a band by telephone, you can call toll-free to 1-800-327-BAND (2263) from anywhere in Canada, the United States and most parts of the Caribbean.

Information needed for a report includes the goose band number; how, when and where the goose band was found; and the name and address of the person reporting the goose band. About three to four weeks after you submit a report, you’ll receive a certificate of appreciation from the Bird Banding Lab and basic banding information about the bird you are reporting, including the state or province where the bird was banded, the date it was banded and the species.

Sometimes goose hunters find very old goose bands with the numbers worn and unreadable. The numbers on these bands still can be determined by a process called etching if the hunter sends the band to the Bird Banding Lab, 12100 Beech Forest Rd., Laurel, MD 20708-4037. Hundreds of bands are etched and returned to hunters every year.

Frederick Lincoln
Frederick Lincoln with the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey was a key player in early efforts to develop a system for banding ducks and other birds in the U.S.

Goose Bands Age Records

Information on life span is collected every time a banded bird is reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. And the record ages for some goose species may surprise you.

  • Canada Goose, 33 years, 3 months
  • Snow Goose, 27 years, 6 months
  • Black Brant, 27 years, 6 months
  • Greater White-Fronted Goose, 23 years, 6 months
  • Atlantic Brants, 22 years, 7 months
  • Ross’s Goose, 22 years, 6 months

Goose Band Trivia

  • Ducks Unlimited biologist Mike Checkett was hunting on the Missouri River in 2003 when one of his hunting partners shot a Canada goose Checkett had banded in 1997.
  • In the fall of 1962, Dr. Stan Chace of Alturas, California, killed a banded Canada Goose in October, and shot another banded Canada in December. When he compared the bands, Chace found them to be consecutively numbered—the first 518-31661 and the second 518-31662. The birds were banded three years earlier.
  • Tom Kowa of Sacramento, California, shot a female Ross's goose in January 2000, and a neck-collared male in January 2002. Both birds were shot on Pond 6 at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, and both were banded by the same individual eight years apart.

Goose Banding Conclusion

As you can see, the value and importance of goose bands far exceeds that of mere jewelry. Goose hunters who harvest birds and report their bands provide invaluable assistance in the effort to conserve North America’s geese. Information from goose hunters provides incredible insight into the lives of waterfowl and helps foster a much greater appreciation of the birds we hunt.

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