Duck Stamps

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A peaceful alliance between the birder and hunter seems as improbable as the Biblical lion lying down with the lamb, but miracles do happen.  Just remember the stories of the vast flocks of Passenger Pigeons and Carolina Parakeets darkening the skies and their subsequent decimation by hunters.  Or recall the indiscriminate shooting of migratory birds-of-prey on Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania or the plume hunters of southern Florida.  On the Chesapeake Bay hunters used giant guns balanced precariously on small boats to harvest thousands of swimming waterfowl, often hundreds with a single shot.  During a recent trip to Italy I noticed the skittish nature of all the passerines, apparently due to the longterm hunting of these small birds for food.  But even with this history there has been a remarkable truce between birder and hunter in this country, benefitting both, as well as the birds.

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The stamp and picture above by Arthur G. Anderson

In 1934 at the height of the Great Depression, when you’d think politicians would have had more pressing issues on their minds, FDR signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.  This act, designed to preserve vital wetlands, required that each waterfowl hunter purchase a Federal Duck Stamp yearly.  Ninety-eight cents of every dollar raised by this program has gone into a conservation fund and has been used to purchase wetlands throughout the United States.  Since its inception some 900 million dollars has been raised to purchase 5.7 million acres of prime habitat.

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by G. Mobley

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Currently a Duck Stamp costs $25, a price gladly paid by hunters and waterfowl art and stamp collectors as well.  The first stamp was designed by “Ding” Darling, a name well-known by birders who have visited the famous hotspot on Sanibel Island, Florida.  He was a political cartoonist and also the director of The Bureau of Biologic Survey, the precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  His first stamp depicted a Mallard pair landing on a pond.

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by William C. Morris

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Initially the stamps were designed by invited artists but since 1949 they have been chosen in a juried, open, and highly competitive contest.  The 2017 winner is a beautiful painting of flying Canada Geese by James Hautman of Chaska, Minnesota.  Amazingly this is James 5th duck stamp winner, tying him with his brother Joseph who also has 5 prior winners.  Another brother, Robert came in third this year and has also won two prior contests!  There’s duck stamps in those genes I’d say.  You can buy the stamp, a print of the original art, or a framed rendition of both at http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/.

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by James Hautman, the 2017 winner

Birders receive “bird gifts” at the holidays and special occasions.  Recently at a retirement party my colleagues thoughtfully presented me with multiple interesting bird feeders and plenty of feed to stock them.  They also baked an amazing cake with frosting depicting a bird photo lifted from my blog.  Thanks for that; you know who you are.  Several years ago I received a call from a dear friend who was in a thrift shop in Arizona and ran across 6 framed duck stamps and prints from the 1980’s.  “Would you like them”, he queried.  “You bet”, was my quick reply.  I now have a beautiful gallery of stamps.

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I’m not a hunter but sincerely appreciate the duck stamp program, an alliance of hunters, birders, artists, art and stamp collectors, and conservationists.  And the birds like it too.

16 thoughts on “Duck Stamps

  1. This is a fascinating article – thank you. I used to collect stamps years ago and you have given me a nudge to look out some of the lovely ones depicting birds. With us just entering summer though, it may have to wait for the winter months 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I awoke this morning to the booming of the duck hunters’ guns across the lake. Thank you for this article, it gives me a more balanced view seeing as how I only “shoot” ducks with my camera.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re a camera shooter like me but my community is filled with waterfowl hunters who have done much to preserve and extend habitat. The strict hunting limits in place today are a huge change from the “olden days”.

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  3. Off Topic:
    I love Finches and have recently moved to Colorado. We put up a bird feeder with food for finches but there was no activity. I have noticed that the finches seem to appear when it snows. Is this a good time to put up my feeder and should it be hung in a tree. We had them hung on the eaves of the house. Our hummingbird feeders that were suctioned to a picture window saw plenty of activity. I would appreciate your guidance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should have no problem attracting House Finches or Gold Finches to a feeder. Hanging it from a tree should be fine. My maps show that your state is at the northern edge of the wintering range of the American Goldfinches. House Finches would probably be more plentiful. I think you are outside of the range of Purple Finches. It’s true that they tend to visit feeders most often in the cold weather. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

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