The 100 dollar bird. And a free pelican.

13 01 2010

Dennis Minsky's $100 pay-out: a dead duck

On December 18th, Dennis Minsky found a dead duck on his Provincetown beach on Cape Cod. But this, Seanetters, was no ordinary dead duck. Always rewarding in their own right, this bird was particularly lucrative. A metal band on the bird’s leg read “REWARD $100.” Dennis called up the number listed on the band and got some background info, found out that the bird was a male American Black Duck banded on 8/14/03 in Nova Scotia, and got an explanation from Pam Garrettson with the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

“Most of the recoveries of black ducks and other game birds are via hunter harvest.  Provided we band a representative sample of the population, the proportion of banded birds recovered (recovery rate) gives an index of the harvest rate.  If everyone who shot a banded bird reported it to the bird banding lab, then the recovery rate would be equal to the harvest rate.  If not, then estimating a band reporting rate allows us to convert band recovery rates to harvest rates by dividing them by their band reporting rates.

That’s where the reward bands come in.  We have determined that a 100$ reward is sufficient to ensure those bands are reported with a probability close to 1.  We put reward bands (along with the standard band) out along with birds that only have a standard band (control birds).  Then the reporting rate can be estimated as recovery rate(control) / recovery rate (reward).  Hope this helps.”

SEANET finds it amusing that it takes $100 in reward money to get hunters to report bands almost 100 percent of the time. Perhaps it is a paucity of money and an abundance of enthusiasm combined, but Seanetters always seem to report bands for free.

Along those lines, we have another recent band recovery to recount: Paula Eubanks, walking on Little Cumberland Island in Georgia, found a banded, subadult Brown Pelican on December 29th. Upon reporting it, she found out that the bird was banded as a chick in July of the same year at Rhodes Point in Virginia. Looks like this bird was not destined for a long career as a pelican.

Thanks to both of you Seanetters for contributing to lofty ideas, science, and the lasting legacy of dead birds.

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27 01 2010
Dennis Minsky

I just received an information sheet on the banded Black Duck I found in December. It was banded on August 14, 2003 as a hatch-year bird at Amherst Point, Nova Scotia by Randy J. Hicks. That means she was over six years old- no record, I’m sure (Erlich et al recorded a 23-year old Mallard).

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