Many folks say the cardinal is the most beautiful bird in our area, but I wonder if they have ever seen a wood duck up close. A cardinal is pretty with solid red body and black mask, and its crest makes it distinctive.
But a wood duck has many colors. Its shiny green head, rusty orange breast, tan wings with blue highlights, white breast and white highlights on chest and head make it a complex riot of hues.
Bluebirds are pretty, too, with males having blue backs and rusty orange breast during mating season, but mallards rival them with shinny green heads, muddy
brown breasts and blue wing highlights.
Few people see ducks of any kind unless they live on a lake or pond. They don’t come to back yard feeders. You have to go to their habitat to see them. Fortunately, thanks to Ducks, Unlimited, there is a lot more habitat for them than in the fairly recent past.
Founded in 1937, Ducks, Unlimited is a group of like-minded hunters and other conservationists who work to insure the future of ducks. Their work preserving and increasing habitat for waterfowl no only benefits ducks, it helps all wildlife. They are truly conservationists in what they do.
On the Ducks, Unlimited web site, https://www.ducks.org/, their motto says “Filling the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.“ That goal means more ducks to shoot, but also means more birds of all kinds, including cardinals and bluebirds, due to their work.
Habitat for waterfowl includes wetlands, ponds, food for waterfowl and suitable nesting areas. Those are all good for ducks, but also good for all other wildlife. If food for waterfowl is available, it is also available for everything from songbirds to deer. And if good cover for nesting is increased it also increase places for all kinds of wildlife to live and reproduce.
If you like bald eagles and want them to increase, join Ducks, Unlimited. Anything good for ducks is good for eagles, and eagles hunt and eat ducks, just like many Ducks, Unlimited members. Ducks are food for many species of predators other then people so increasing the food supply helps them, too.
That is a big reason for the need for more duck habitat. If no hunter ever shot another duck, but habitat was not preserved and increased, waterfowl populations would decrease due to lack of habitat, and predators would take more and more of the smaller and smaller population of waterfowl.
Wetland conservation helps people, too, by improving the health of our environment. Water is stored and purified in them, they help moderate flooding and slow down soil erosion. Conserving wetlands is important to all life.
Many people do not know how money is raised for wildlife conservation in the US. In 1937 the Pittman-Robertson Act was passed by congress and signed by President Roosevelt. It charges 11 percent on all firearms and hunting supplies. All that money is earmarked for conservation and sent to the states to use for that purpose. The Dingle-Johnson Act does the same thing for fisheries with a tax on fishing supplies.
But Ducks, Unlimited raises money to supplement those funds. And Ducks, Unlimited is efficient. Many fund-raising organizations spend much of their money on administration and things other than their stated goal. Ducks, Unlimited spends only three percent on administration and 14 percent on fundraising efforts. Eighty three percent of all funds raised goes directly to conservation. That is an admirable ratio.
It might seem strange that hunters wanting to shoot ducks work so hard to protect the environment but not to anyone that hunts. Hunters know our sport depends on a good environment, and we see nature up close and personal. We know nature needs our efforts to make sure it is not destroyed and work to conserve it. Many non-hunters realize the work that is needed also join and work with Ducks, Unlimited.
Each year Ducks, Unlimited holds more than 4000 fund raising events nationwide. Most of these efforts are banquets where people have fun as well as raise money for conservation. There are many events here in Georgia each year and they are listed on the Ducks, Unlimited web site at http://www.ducks.org/events.
Since 1985 Ducks, Unlimited has worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to conserve more than 27,000 acres of wetlands here in our state. That is good for wildlife and people right here. Without Ducks, Unlimited, there would be many fewer acres conserved in Georgia.
Although 2.1 million dollars was raised here in Georgia last year, Ducks, Unlimited members and supporters supply more than money. When volunteers are needed to work on projects they give their time and equipment, with no pay, to make sure the work is done. Much of wetland conservation work is hard labor moving dirt and other materials to build small dams and water control structures. Members help with those projects.
Businesses also help by donating money and items for auctions. There are a variety of ways businesses and corporations help, through product licensing, sponsorships, comprehensive partnerships, philanthropy and directly supporting specific conservation projects.
Ducks, Unlimited also reaches out to young people with special youth memberships and events. There are more than 45,000 Greenwing members who love the outdoors and care about conservation. There are high school chapters and Ducks, Unlimited provides college scholarships.
If you are a hunter, or if you just love the outdoors and want to conserve it for the future, join Ducks, Unlimited and attend one of their events near you. You will have fun as well as insuring the future of our outdoors.
Till next time – Gone fishing!