DFW asks public to help identify waterfowl sites

Mallards enjoy the comfort of Lagoon Pond. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is asking for help from sportsmen, birders, and other interested conservationists across the state to report sites where wild ducks and geese are being fed or to report sightings of ducks and geese they see feeding at artificial waterfowl feeding sites from January 6 to 26, 2013.

Information needed for these reports include town, specific location (address, map, or GPS coordinates), date, number, and the kinds of wild ducks and/or geese observed. Currently, MassWildlife is trying to determine if there is a correlation between artificial feeding sites and waterfowl population size. Feeding site locations or waterfowl feeding reports should be reported to H Heusmann, MassWildlife Waterfowl Project Leader by email at: h.heusmann@state.ma.us; phone 508-389-6321; Fax 508-389-7890; or postal mail at DFW Park Mallard Survey, 100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230, West Boylston, MA 01583.

Every five years since 1973, MassWildlife has conducted a winter waterfowl survey of sites where people feed wild ducks and geese. Designed primarily as a count of wintering mallards, the survey includes information on all waterfowl seen, including Canada geese. The statewide survey covers public and private property in city, suburban, and rural areas. Sites may be located on fresh water, salt water, and estuaries. Other feeding sites include parks, beaches, and backyard bird feeding stations. Because feeding locations change between each five-year cycle, the most current information on artificial waterfowl feeding locations is valuable.

While MassWildlife discourages feeding of wildlife, there is no state law or regulation prohibiting this activity and the feeding of ducks on some sites has been going on for decades. Some municipalities do restrict or prohibit feeding. Mallards are by far the most common duck seen at feeding sites, but MassWildlife is also interested in obtaining information about other ducks and geese seen feeding at these sites: black ducks are commonly observed along with wood ducks, pintails, gadwalls, wigeons, and hooded mergansers. Canada geese are well-known visitors to feeding sites and their presence is often the impetus for towns and cities to pass feeding prohibition bylaws. Results from this year’s survey compared to past surveys will be available later in the winter.