[Tweeters] a thousand red heads

Jeff Kozma jkozma at charter.net
Sun Feb 11 22:21:06 PST 2007

Hi Larry,

I also notice the skew in sex ratio in diver ducks, more so than in puddle ducks.  One thing that might also explain this, is that male diving ducks tend to spend the winter as far north as open water permits and thus migrate later, where as females and particularly young of the year birds, migrate further south and often earlier.  Most ducks pair together on the wintering grounds and thus the sexes eventually end up on the wintering grounds together.  I know that with buffleheads for instance, early in the fall it seems you can't find a drake, most of the birds are females or immature birds (which aside from a slightly larger white cheek patch, look just like hens).  It usually isn't until late Nov or early December do I usually see larger numbers of drakes showing up.  This seems to be the case with other very cold hardy birds such as Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers.  We have large numbers of Common Mergansers here in the Yakima area where there is open water and the sex ratio of drakes to hens is probably 8:1.  With these birds, pair formation may not occur until females start returning north as ice receeds.  Scaup on the other hand, migrate together and seem to travel in mixed sex flocks, with of course, males being more numerous.  The same for Redheads and Canvasbacks.  For these birds, and for most dabblers, pair formation probably occurs earlier.  

I think most hunters should practice "voluntary restraint".  I have hunted with a few people who were like, "you don't shoot hens?".  As if I was from some other planet.  Granted, it is difficult sometimes to determine the sex, particulary when you have a flock of scaup, for example, come into your decoys at 45-50 miles per hour and the birds are twisting and turning, etc.  But, I do everything I can to harvest only drakes.  I try to tell these fellow hunters that hens are normally lower ratio than drakes and also that by not harvesting hens, you leave more for duck production in the future.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Even if means going home empty handed, it means more to me as a hunter and conservationist to do my part and not harvest hens.  


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