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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Golden-winged Warblers Unlimited: Want to join?

Have you ever heard of the conservation group Golden-winged Warblers Unlimited?


More on that in a moment.


First, I want to visit about the misunderstanding some of us have concerning the federal duck stamp. Many birders buy one every year. Others do not.


Officially, it’s the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Hunters must buy one if they hunt migratory waterfowl. The stamp has rightfully become associated with hunting. 


There are birders who don’t hunt, and birders who disapprove of hunting. For some, those are reasons not to buy the stamp. There are birders who believe the taxes they pay should cover all conservation needs. If only.


I don’t hunt. I did when my father was alive, but no more. I do buy the stamp.


The official name of the stamp better explains what I consider to be its most important function: It is a conservation stamp.


Stamp money buys federal wildlife refuge and wetland habitat that serves many more non-game species than waterfowl species. State game stamps serve the same purpose.


Cost for the federal stamp is $25. Two percent of the $25 ($.50) is spent on stamp production; at least 40 percent of the $25 ($10) must be spent on conservation easements; the remaining 58 percent ($14.50) is divided among fee-title, easement, and associated acquisition expenses.


Hunter numbers are shrinking. If the funding provided by stamp sales is to continue, non-hunters must step up. When considering the stamp, conservation should be foremost.


Now, about that conservation group known as Golden-winged Warblers Unlimited.


It’s modeled on the principles of the conservation groups Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and Delta Waterfowl, among others.


Membership money is collected and spent to improve habitat for the warbler, just like the work done for ducks and geese.


Just kidding. I made it up. There is no group called Golden-winged Warblers Unlimited. Maybe there should be.


Hunters know that if there are no ducks or pheasants, there is no hunting. Hunters understand supply and demand.


Golden-winged Warblers and their warbler relatives have the same supply and demand issue. Habitat conservation needs support in every way possible, like duck stamps.


Consider Golden-winged Warblers specifically, for instance. Forty percent of the world’s population of that species nests in Minnesota; there are concerns for the continuation of the specific nesting habitat they need.


Hunters and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the latter recipient of duck stamp money, are habitat-oriented. 


Birders can let hunters do the heavy lifting. It’s better if we all buy a duck stamp. Buy a Minnesota collectible game stamp. These stamps are exceptional conservation tools. 


If you want to hunt birds with binoculars or camera — and hunt is what we do — then there have to be birds out there in the first place.


We share the same values. We’re all in this together.


(Federal duck stamps can be purchased at most post offices and at many major sporting-goods stores. 2016-17 duck stamps will be available July 1. For state game stamps, Google minnesota wildlife collectible stamps.)



Wilson's Phalarope males fight for breeding rights

This pair of male Wilson's Phalaropes was engaged in serious combat in May of last year. Phalaropes will be at it again this spring, sparring for breeding rights. Last year, the target was the lone female in these photos, the brightly colored bird moving away from the fight. The males are drab. They incubate the pair's eggs, so drab helps deter predators. Wilson's Phalaropes migrate through Minnesota each spring. Some nest here. The photos were taken in eastern Montana during a visit to the Boudoin National Wildlife Refuge along Highway 2 in the eastern part of that state. If you are in that neighborhood, Boudoin is an excellent refuge for a wide variety of breeding birds. And for photography.

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