Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Louisiana
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Louisiana Project

Linking annual waterfowl productivity and Louisiana hunter-harvest to natal / molt origins using stable isotope ecology

August 2022 - June 2026


Participating Agencies

  • Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

While continental populations of waterfowl are still above the long-term average, mid-winter waterfowl counts in coastal Louisiana have been on a steady decline. Traditional methods of determining migratory connectivity to wintering grounds requires prior capture at an earlier life stage and accessible capture locations may not be representative of the entire breeding range of a species. For harvested waterfowl, understanding the strength of migratory connectivity and identifying links between source origins (e.g. natal or molt origins) are important when developing sustainable management strategies. Throughout the Mississippi Flyway, state agencies independently make decisions where to send agency dollars throughout the breeding grounds to support conservation / restoration efforts and decisions are largely informed through capture-mark-recovery techniques. This project is a collaboration of researchers from the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and University of Western Ontario and biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to compare estimates of harvest derivation from available banding data and stable isotope analyses of flight feathers in harvested blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwall, mallard, and lesser scaup. Data acquired in this study will inform biologists on the representativeness of capture-mark-recovery methods to assess source-origins and migratory connectivity of managed waterfowl species. Further, this study may demonstrate the utility of incorporating source-origins estimates via stable isotope analyses into long-term monitoring programs of harvested waterfowl used to track hunter harvest and population productivity.