Tauranga hunter Brian Rogers is stunned to have bagged a duck that may set a record as the oldest banded game bird recovered in Fish & Game’s Eastern Region, since records began 15 years ago.
Brian shot the bird while kayaking near the Bell Road Landing on the Kaituna River with a friend recently just 1.5 kilometres away from where it was first banded at Kaituna Wildlife Reserve as a juvenile on February 11, 2002.
Tauranga hunter Brian Rogers with the duck ring from an old duck first banded in 2002.
“We saw a few birds around and called three over,” he says.
“It wasn’t flying particularly well, it didn’t look right.”
Brian thought at first it was a duck out of condition, a thin-looking juvenile rather than a tough old bird.
Recovering the bird from the sandbar it fell on proved to be a real mission with Brian stepping out of his kayak onto the bar, which felt like quicksand.
“I was forced to crawl on my belly through the shallows to reach it – but I never leave a bird I’ve shot.”
“I said to my mate Tony that so far I’d only shot young and stupid birds, and now I can add geriatric to that. I am stunned to hear it was that old.”
As Fish & Game requests, Brian sent details of the recovered band to the organisation’s Eastern Region headquarters at Ngongotaha.
Senior Fish & Game Officer Matt McDougall runs the country’s longest-running game bird monitoring programme, now 15 years old.
He looked up his records to discover the bird, banded nearly 11 years ago, was the oldest they’ve recovered so far – beating two other ten-year-old ducks.
Matt, one of the country’s leading game bird researchers, was quickly on the phone to Brian to confirm the finding.
“It’s an area that gets a lot of hunting pressure and to go through so many hunting seasons, it must have been a pretty wily old bird.
“I think it’s fair to say however that this harvest could be considered a humane act, as from the description of the bird’s flying, it was nearing the end of its life.”
The banding programme has shown that 86 per cent are recovered within 50 kilometres of where they are banded, although he adds this bird may in fact have travelled some distance away and then returned to the site. One adult mallard banded at Lake Rununga in the Hawkes Bay was recovered down south,1014kms away just out of Invercargill.
Matt says that in the 15 years it has been running throughout the Eastern and Hawkes Bay Fish & Game regions, 23,673 mallard have been banded, along with 2693 grey duck and 1844 Paradise shelduck.
He says it’s great for Fish & Game to receive this banding information from hunters, which all helps them to assess “what the different game bird populations are doing,” and then determine regulations including bag limits and season length.
“Banding helps us determine productivity, population size, movement and of course – as seen here – survival rates. When a band is returned to us we know how long it’s survived for, and with all the bands returned, we can estimate how long the average bird survives for.
“It’s interesting to see that birds do live to a ripe old age as the average life span is just over one year.
Matt says they’re very pleased to see hunters like Brian getting the most from their game bird licences, hunting past the opening of the season, and doing the right things – including passing on this vital information.