Banded specs tell interesting story

(ST. MARTINVILLE) – When Mark Oubre and Chuck Judice were making a late season hunt on Jan. 20 they had the unusual experience of bagging two banded specklebelly geese (properly know as greater white-fronted geese).

The St. Martinville buddies were hunting in a flooded rice field/crawfish pond just east of St. Martinville when a small flock of six to eight of the big birds decoyed to their pond. Mark and Chuck each brought down one goose and when they returned to the blind after retreiving the birds they discovered each had an ID band clamped to a leg.

Many hunters go through a lifetime of waterfowl hunting without bagging a banded bird, so the double kill was very unusual.

A later check of the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) website, which catalogs all waterfowl banding data, revealed that the two geese – one male and one female – were both banded on July 11, 2006, 25 miles northwest of Deadhorse, Anchorage Borough, Alaska. Biologists estimated that the birds were hatched in 2004, or earlier, so they were at least 8 years old when killed. And it appears very likely they were mates.

The greater white-fronted goose breeds across the tundra from Nunavut, Canada to Siberia, across Russia, and in Greenland, and has one of the largest ranges of any species of goose in the world. In North America, however, it is common only west of the Mississippi River, where it is found in large flocks in wetlands and croplands.

As is true of many geese, greater white-fronted goose pairs stay together for years and migrate together, along with their offspring. White-front family bonds can last longer than in most geese, and some young stay with their parents through the next breeding season. Parent and sibling associations may continue throughout their lives.

USGS records reveal that the oldest banded white-fronted goose taken in Louisiana was 23½ years old. Bagged in December 1998, the specklebelly was banded in Nunavut in July 1975.

FREQUENT FLIERS

The “as the crow flies” distance from Deadhorse, Alaska to south Louisiana is roughly 3,400 miles, but you can figure that the migration route of a goose is not quite that direct. If this pair of specs made the round trip, say six times, they probably flew close to 50,000 miles during their lifetime.

A USGC official said other geese banded on the same day as the two killed here have been recovered in Alaska, Arkansas, Texas and Saskatchewan. A total of 79 banded specklebelly geese were taken in Louisiana during the 2011-12 hunting season.

Bird banding data are useful in both research and management projects. Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

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