MassWildlife asks public to help with waterfowl survey
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has asked the public to help state biologists conduct a winter waterfowl survey this month of sites where people feed wild ducks and geese.
The January survey is conducted every five years. Survey sites include urban, suburban, and rural areas on fresh, brackish, and salt water.
The feeding of ducks on some sites has been going on for decades, according to MassWildlife's waterfowl project leader H. Heusmann. MassWildlife surveys were begun 35 years ago, he said.
There is no state law or regulation that prohibits feeding. However MassWildlife said that artificial feeding disrupts the normal activities of waterfowl, concentrates the ducks and geese into larger flocks that may increase the chances of disease outbreaks, and may not meet their nutritional requirements, particularly in late winter as the breeding season approaches.
Mallards are the most common duck at feeding sites and many rely on artificial feeding to survive the winter, but other ducks may be observed as well, said Mr. Heusmann. Canada geese also occur at feeding sites. Growing populations of non-migratory geese are an increasing problem across the state and some towns and cities have passed bylaws that prohibit feeding.
Feeding sites range from municipal parks where visitors feed the ducks to backyards where ducks scavenge spilled seed under bird feeders or receive handouts thrown out someone's back door.
Biologists use the survey information to assess waterfowl numbers and health. Reports should include the name of the town, specific location, date and number of ducks and/or geese seen, preferable by species. The survey period ends on January 25.
MassWildlife asks that survey results be reported by letter to H Heusmann, MassWildlife, One Rabbit Hill Rd. Westboro, MA 01568; by phone 508-389-6321; fax 508-389-7890 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.