Wildlife biologist Associate Professor Graham Hall has recommended an expansion of Field & Game Australia’s head and wing sampling project and additional research on captive ducks to measure growth rates.
For nearly a decade Field & Game members have been contributing head and wing samples taken from harvested ducks.
Graham Hall’s report on the 2016 season revealed the lowest sample number since the project began in 2009 with 391 samples.
However, the number of samples, and the wide geographic origin of the samples, gives some confidence that they still represented the state-wide harvest.
The majority of the samples in 2016 were from Wood ducks, which was greater than the number of harvested Grey teal for the first time.
Assoc. Prof. Hall said the lack of samples from south-west Victoria from the 2014–2016 seasons needed to be addressed to gain a complete picture of the annual harvest. He also pointed to additional research on live birds to enhance the value of the data already collected.
“The interpretation of any age data is difficult given there are no known-age birds to act as reference,” he said.
“This limitation will hopefully be addressed by FGA members attempting to raise captive-bred birds to monitor plumage, growth rates and moult patterns of known-age birds. Alternatively, FGA may consider a post-graduate student project in which captive birds are grown and their morphological measurements recorded.”
This would allow comprehensive comparison with known-aged birds with the 4507 samples collected from harvested birds since 2009.
The samples from various sites are also available to other people for DNA or radio isotope analysis.