My son and I shot these ducks on October 27 in western Minnesota. The middle duck, a hen mallard, was carrying a leg band. This led to information about the individual duck and about the status of bird banding in general.
The mallard was banded on August 24, 2011, in Saskatchewan, Canada. The banding site was at Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area half way between Regina and Saskatoon. Incidentally, Last Mountain was the first-ever bird sanctuary reserved in North America. That was in 1887. The records of the Canadian Bird Banding Office which is a division of their National Wildlife Research Centre indicate this hen mallard was hatched in 2010 or earlier. All this information and the act of reporting the band is now done on the Internet. No surprise there.
What did surprise me was the route this duck, and I assume those accompanying her in the flock, took on their way south. It's encouraging to realize not all northern mallards migrate through the Dakotas. Unless she got blown off her normal course during her 900 mile trip from her breeding ground to western Minnesota, there is hope.
I was also surprised to learn that in the United States the U.S. Geological Survey people are responsible for banding and compiling reports about birds. Sounds like a job for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife folks. And banding activity has dropped about 75% in the last twenty years. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Research people banded 22,400 mallards in 1992 but only 5,300 in 2011. Either they know what they need to know about mallards or, more likely, budgets were slashed.
Only about 2% of banded ducks are ever recovered. So if you bag a banded duck I'm sure the biologists who did the banding would love to hear from you. You can do it on your PC and the banding information is instantaneous.