LDWF Conducting Three Waterfowl Telemetry Projects to Gain Better Understanding of Species Movements and Habitat Use

Release Date: 05/20/2019

White-fronted geese released after being tagged.
LDWF's Paul Link captures white-fronted goose for telemetry tagging.

May 20, 2019 – Research is a key component in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) management of the Bayou State’s natural resources. To that end, LDWF’s Waterfowl Section is currently conducting three telemetry projects aimed at better understanding life habits and routines of three species important to Louisiana hunters.
“The data gathered are invaluable in monitoring nesting birds, determining pathways of potential disease spread and identifying habitats in need of protection or management to enhance populations,’’ LDWF Waterfowl Program Manager Larry Reynolds said. “They may also help us to manage hunting activity to improve harvest opportunity while protecting populations.’’
The species targeted in the three telemetry projects are mottled ducks, blue-winged teal and white-fronted geese, or speckle bellies. LDWF is providing funding and staff, in addition to coordinating with other partners on these projects.
These projects use cutting-edge technology with solar powered GPS/GSM transmitters. The units collect GPS coordinates, motion and environmental data, which is transmitted via cell-phone towers to researchers, allowing them to determine the birds’ precise location, activity, flight speed, direction and altitude.
“These new telemetry units allow researchers to determine what specific habitats birds use during certain times of the day and different seasons of the year, such as breeding vs. molting vs. wintering or hunting vs. non-hunting, and throughout their fall and spring migrations,’’ Reynolds said. “They allow us to see how long marked birds spend in different geographic regions or different habitat types and how and when they move between them.’’
In the mottled duck project, LDWF has partnered with Dr. Kevin Ringelman of LSU, tagging 65 ducks in 2017 and another 57 in 2018 with 31 currently providing data. The primary goal is to explore the nesting ecology of mottled ducks. Substantial data, more than 100,000 locations thus far, is collected on movements and habitat use during the entire annual cycle.
Paul Link, LDWF’s North American Waterfowl Management Plan Coordinator, is coordinating the white-fronted goose project. It began in 2015 with contributions from private donors to purchase transmitters and assist with capture.
Since then, Link has put transmitters on 95 white-fronts in Louisiana, with 44 of those currently providing data. The primary goal is to determine use of habitats by white-fronts in Louisiana and look at status and trends of those habitats over the last 30 years for potential explanation of the changing winter distribution of this species.
Like the mottled duck project, data collected will be used to study many other aspects of white-fronted goose ecology throughout their annual cycle.
Link is also leading the blue-winged teal project, where LDWF has partnered with the USGS Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, several Louisiana Delta Waterfowl Chapters, Ducks Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and private donors to place transmitters on birds in Louisiana and Saskatchewan.
Thus far this year, 10 units have been placed on spring-migrating blue-winged teal in Louisiana in conjunction with on-going avian flu research. Additional teal will be captured and fitted in the breeding grounds this year by cooperating partners.
For more information on these projects, contact Larry Reynolds at lreynolds@wlf.la.gov or 225-765-0456, or Paul Link at plink@wlf.la.gov or 225-765-2358.