Two Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) biologists participated in the annual Woodcock Wingbee that was conducted in North Carolina the first week of April. Mike Olinde and Fred Kimmel, both biologists in LDWF's, Office of Wildlife, Wildlife Division, are nationally recognized as woodcock experts in the south.
The wingbee is the forum where woodcock wings that were turned in by hunters are aged and sexed. These data give biologists one indication of population health of woodcock. Comparing information collected over a number of years provides long-term trends, which are used to assess population status.
Preliminary numbers indicated that about 12,000 wings were turned in from hunters. This number was up about 15 percent from last year and represented increases for each management unit.
Although the harvest survey for the 2005-06 hunting season in Louisiana has not been completed, hunter comments were that the woodcock season was generally average to below average. The number of wings turned in from people hunting in Louisiana during the 2005-06 season was virtually unchanged. However, the length of hunting trips are not recorded so hunters may have had to hunt longer to harvest their birds.
"Louisiana is an extremely important wintering area for the woodcock," said Olinde, who has worked for LDWF for 26 years. "Although harvest of woodcock is far less than the peak in the early 1980s, it is still more than any other southern state."
Providing a good habitat for woodcock also provides habitat for bird groups requiring scrub and thicket habitat including painted buntings and golden-winged, Swainson's and hooded warblers to name a few.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has annually coordinated the Woodcock Wingbee since the late 1960s. In the early years, wingbees were always held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Research Laboratory in Maryland. However, beginning in 1987, the wingbee began being held at other locations and Louisiana hosted the first non-Patuxent wingbee. The department has hosted the wingbee about every five years since that time.
"LDWF's presence at the wingbee illustrates the state's interest and maintains our credibility relative to input on woodcock management decisions," Olinde said. "As an agency, it is our responsibility to keep abreast with woodcock developments. Although not an official function of the wingbee, it also provides a forum for lots of discussion relative to current and future research and management needs of woodcock."
About 50 percent of the biologists who participate in the wingbee are with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the remainder are from a combination of state wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other federal agencies.
For more information, contact Mike Olinde at 225-765-2353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.