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Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks

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Dates hunted September 15 - 16 - 17:

Report from Southeast Louisiana marsh. In the blind I was hunting in we shot 4 teal on Friday - 3 teal Saturday and 5 teal Sunday. The Friday hunt there was a decent breeze and an average amount of teal for what we normally see. Saturday no breeze at all and very few teal on the move. Below average for sure. Sunday no breeze at all but a few more ducks on the move, similar to Friday. Overall we did what we normally do for beginning of teal season.

Another comment I have is the unusual amount of Whistling Tree Ducks in our area. We had them landing in the teal decoys and we had loads of them fly over the decoys we could have shot. We could have easily shot limits of them if they were included in the special teal season bag limit. Since the Whistling Tree Duck does not migrate and the population of them seems to be thriving I hope someday they will be added to the special teal season as part of the limit taken. Over the last 10 years or so it has been interesting to see how these ducks have adapted to our climate and now dominate the marshes in our area prior to the arrival of the big ducks.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
MileyPop,Not only do they dominate the marsh where I typically hunt,they must like it as I saw a few families of them a few weeks ago while bass fishing the T-Funky via my pirogue!!They must have decided they like it here much more than where they were and we saw a flock of at least 15 Friday hunting the S portion of Pearl River WMA and saw a lot of woodies.Wish the Feds would include them for teal season and a duck hunting buddy was telling me some states allow the harvest of wood ducks inn their teal season,think he mentioned Arkansas as one of the states allowing wood duck harvests in teal season.Not many teal where I have been hunting,just need a good front or two to shove em down!!!

Mandevillian

P.S. About a year ago,ran into Lt Governor Billy Nungesser and he said teal were ridiculously thick in cow pastures in Buras,Port Sulphur area-might have to check dat out!!!
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
I agree that we should be able to take a couple either in addition to, or in aggregate during the teal season. And the same could be said for wood ducks. As I understand it, other states allow you to take woodies during teal season. Why hasn't this been implemented in LA?
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
The Mexican Whistlers are an invasive specie. They blew in from Central America with Katrina. As such all regulations should be dropped regarding this bird. As for not migrating; they don't want to go back across the border either.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
They definitely arrived post Katrina and where I hunt we typically see huge flocks of them but only in teal season. Wish the LAWLF would consider them an invasive species like the feral hog and allow a significant reduction in their vast numbers. Did see cool you tube video of few guys hunting ducks in Mexico and they were seriously decimating the population and bet they taste pretty goodđź‘Ť

Mandevillian
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
I see the whistling ducks while fishing and scouting for ducks. Landing in trees next to me. As soon as big duck season opens they fly by in the dark before legal shooting time and they are gone for the day. Maybe one of my kids can take one during their youth hunt.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
I live in Metairie and they fly all around me roosting in trees and after dark and pre-dawn if u listen you can hear flock after flock flying all around.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
First: We don't have a teal/wood duck season in Louisiana because when that was a possibility, we had to choose between a 5-day teal/wood duck season or a potentially 16-day teal season. Sorry, but I'm not going to give up 11 days of teal season so we can shoot 2 wood ducks in our teal bag limit for only 5 days. It's a moot point now anyway, because the USFWS won't and hasn't allowed any other state to have teal/wood duck seasons except for the 3 states (Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky) that had them originally.

Second: The black-bellied whistling duck is NOT an invasive species and many of them DO migrate. They are expanding their breeding distribution to the north and east, but they were native to south Texas and we've had them in Louisiana for over 50 years. I tried for years to get them added to the teal season bag limit, and the USFWS won't allow it. Why? Because they are a big duck, and allowing a big duck in the teal season bag limit only increases the probability of killing mottled ducks and other non-teal species during the teal season, which is happening.

So there will be no wood ducks or whistling ducks in the teal season bag limit. But that doesn't keep us from pursuing a special whistling duck season ........ hmmmm.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Larry,

Thank you for your reply and your insight as to how things work.
I live near Lafreniere Park in Metairie and every day there are loads of the tree ducks in the park doing what they do. There are also loads of tree ducks along the Mississippi River batture locally. They seem to be here all year long, if they are migrating they are leaving a lot behind.

I have never seen any report issued on the population numbers of tree ducks? One may exist but, I have not seen one. I am curious to know how the tree ducks are managed if at all since they are relatively new to the local waterfowl scene as compared to other migrating species that are counted?

It seems water fowlers should be able to distinguish the difference between a tree duck and a motled duck as we are required to do the same identification in the big duck season when tree ducks are allowed in the bag limit. Not sure I am sold on managements thinking on that one??

If we can’t get them into the teal season bag limit we will take anything we can get to shoot tree ducks prior to the big duck season. Anything we get will allow more opportunities to get in the marsh for some hunting. Please keep us posted on the potential special season or possible reconsideration of adding tree ducks to the teal limit?
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Larry,Thanks for the expert opinion-had no earthly idea those ducks have been here that long,seems like their population exploded post Katrina and take a ride to Audobon Park where there seem to be thousands of them.I did not know exactly which states did allow the take of wood ducks in the teal season and now know!!Not sure what to make of the relative lack of teal where I hunt but will take the few teal I can!Hope our regular duck season fares out better than the teal season thus far!!

Mandevillian
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
One of the fastest growing segments of the BBWD population were the birds roosting in Audubon Zoo and feeding at the Cargill grain elevators. We've banded tens of thousands of them there in the last 15 years, and counted about 22,000 using that area a few years ago. They have expanded to similar habitats from Metairie over to Slidell and even across the MS line. We've banded over 3,000 per year over the last 6 years, but get very few recoveries because 1) they migrate early to their primary wintering areas in Mexico and South America, and 2) those that don't migrate, favor urban or suburban habitats where they are not killed by hunters (much like resident Giant Canada geese). We don't have an estimate of the population size because of that as well: we aren't allowed to fly near their major population centers, and they are a hole-nester, like wood ducks, so a breeding population survey is difficult to establish. What we do have is estimated use by BBWDs of wood duck nest boxes that are monitored each year, and that is growing.

We are largely ignorant of how BBWDs make a living. We had radios on 14 of them for 3 years, and found them to make large (over 400 miles), un-predictable (to us) movements to very different habitats where they stayed for months and then returned. Movements seemingly not tied to breeding or wintering or big changes in food availability. We've had color-banded birds show up in South Carolina and states in between. Sample sizes are small and so the story they tell isn't clear. Unfortunately, BBWD aren't a priority for anything ..... not the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, not the USFWS, not any landscape conservation initiatives ..... so it's difficult to get funding to work on them, especially since the chance of harvesting them during the teal season was closed through policy decisions.

You are correct and I agree that ID of ducks during the teal season should not be a problem ..... but it is. During the experimental teal seasons in 1965-1967, Louisiana had one of the highest non-target harvest rates, and it got worse (not better) as the experiment went on. And most all we had to kill were mottled ducks. Even today, I got a band return from one of our banded wood ducks that was reported as a blue-winged teal. Really? Either the hunter is stupid, or he just wants the data from the band and is worried what would happen (nothing, the BBL doesn't make reports to Law Enforcement) if he reported it as a wood duck. Our staff collected avian flu samples this past weekend at picking sheds in SW LA and saw dozens of wood ducks, mottled ducks and pintails come in with the piles of bluewings. When we had the opportunity to expand teal hunting opportunity a few years ago (when we upped the daily bag limit from 4 to 6), I was clearly instructed to NOT propose anything that would force us to do 'hunter performance studies' (spy blinds) like the states of MI, IA, and WI had to do to open teal seasons. My leadership is deathly afraid of what a spy-blind study would turn up in Louisiana. I'm not sure I agree, but I'm not in charge. In this case, the USFWS has a declining population of mottled ducks to worry about and a season that was specifically set up to take advantage of blue-winged teal. They see no need to complicate one by expanding the species allowed in the other.

We've got to find a funding source for some comprehensive work on this species, and we may be able to generate an experimental season in early-October. My right-hand man, who is responsible for all the banding, color-band, and radio data we have at this point isn't supportive of that because there are BBWD's raising broods into November. But he's not in charge either.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Larry,

Thanks again for sharing what data you do have about tree ducks. It is all very interesting and also poses quite a few potential outcomes on what to do with a nontraditional species that is thriving in our state.
As far as the funding goes until you see the pictures of tree ducks on the front covers of Ducks Unlimited or Delta Waterfowl and or brochures that feature tree duck hunts in Stuttgart Arkansas and other states up the line nobody is going to care. Until the money guys and other agencies get on board I don’t see any way to get the money you need to study the duck more than you already have. At this time management of the tree ducks will have to be done by you and your staff. For us Louisiana duck hunters that could be a good thing. The USFWS will have to think out of the box on this one because tree ducks are a Louisiana issue, thus the square peg is not going to fit in the circle hole.

In my opinion it would be best to put the taking of tree ducks with the special teal season. The study conducted in the 60’s should not be relevant with today’s duck hunter. Back in the 60’s there was little tolerance for rules on duck hunting by most in the game. I think most of the duck hunters today (there are exceptions) try to play by the rules.

If there is a special season in October for tree ducks only it will be extremely difficult for hunters to lay off of 12 teal zipping over the decoys. That temptation is the same thing happening with the tree ducks going over my teal decoys now. That temptation is what started all of this.

At least there is a discussion with the right people (you) to possibly make changes based on what we duck hunters see in the field. It seems tree ducks are thriving in south Louisiana and are here to stay. Now we need to figure out how to hunt them while not devastating the species.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens next?
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Great points, I hunted this weekend and had tree ducks after tree ducks fly in or directly over. In addition, wood ducks in the marsh and did not mistakenly shoot one.

ID is not an issue with tree ducks, their wing color, how they posture when flying, size, and vocalizations are quite clear. The population has certainly exploded and continues to grow. I have seen ducklings near my home that have been hatched.

My real concern is why we can continue hunting the dwindling population of mottled ducks in LA? My hunting circle uses restraint in taking mottled ducks, I invite other to let them pass. I saw more tree ducks than mottled ducks.

I look forward to some movement on adding this bird to the bag and getting scientist to make decisions on updated data.
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
mperkins,Not asking where you hunt but where I hunt,I have see quite a few nice-sized flocks of mottled ducks,numbering sometimes as many as 8,most likely 4 pairs.Today,hunting the NShore Marsh,I had flock after flock of wood ducks,followed by a few flocks of mottled ducks,finally getting a small flock of 4 teal blaze by getting two of the four,fortunately!!We have yet to see any tree ducks in regular duck season,only seeing them in teal season.Hope for more teal before the end of teal season and personally,I use teal season to get the ole body in shape for regular duck season,practice calling and decoy placement strategies,MoJp strategies,blind strategies and to scout,scout,scout some more and often find hidden gems while paddling back to the Mother-ship!!!I find it interesting that some folks complain about the heat and mosquitoes(get a Thermocell and wave good-bye to skeeters and we use short pants under our waders,not a terribly hot way to hunt)and if nothing else,I get to witness some awesome sunrises and have seen deer in the marshes we hunt,along with an occasional hog or two!!Probably will never see a tree duck harvest in teal season and no big deal,just will concentrate on teal and find where the woodies want to go in preparation for regular duck season!

Mandevillian
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Madevillian, I hunt the east side of the river, near Pointe a la Hache. Don't get me wrong, I saw mottled ducks and see them daily when hunting. However, the population is dwindling in the coastal marsh.

When you see more whistling ducks than mottled ducks, that is alarming to me. In addition, around October the whistling ducks seem to leave, migrate to Mexico or further south.

This teal season has been the best in a very long time. My hunting partner on Saturday morning took a banded BW teal hen. It was banded in 2015, Port Barre Louisiana. I guess they band them before they return back north.

I love the smell of the marsh!
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Re: Teal Report - Whistling Tree Ducks
Good deal,mperkins,I made a decent hunt today in the NShore Marsh but only emerged with 2 teal,only had small flock of four blaze in and quick shooting took care of two rockets!!I am not 100% sure about the mottled duck population where I hunt but can tell ya there was a small flock of black ducks that soared over me a few seasons ago and one is mounted on my wall,true black and trophy drake,so possibly the mottled duck population has dwindled and I would gladly shoot another black but dat may not happen again in my lifetime as their typical areas not in LA.Where I hunt,the mottled duck population extremely strong and woodies are thriving as well as BBW ducks,for what dat is worth.We do shoot a few mallards every year and hoping the groceries currently thriving in de Marsh attract and retain some big boys come regular duck season.I love just getting out in de Marsh and shooting some quality birds and practice my calling in teal season as mottled ducks and woodies sometimes respond quite well,think dem teal rockets do whatever their wings tell em to do,not sure calling has an appreciable effect!!Think Ro-Bo's do great job on teal and I like employing two,one in each of my 10-decoy teal spreads!!Excellent table fare,dem rockets!!

Mandevillian
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