Research on Webless Migratory Game Birds

Research plays an important role in the success of any "business" and it is certainly true in wildlife management. Research into the lives of migratory birds has a rich history reaching back at least to the 1930's. However, research hasn't been distributed evenly across all migratory birds. Ducks were the primary object of the earliest studies and geese followed in short order. By the mid-1950's and early 1960's, information about mourning doves and woodcock was being published in wildlife journals on a regular basis, although there are many examples of earlier work.

When the Central Dove Technical Committee, forerunner of the current Central Flyway Webless Migratory Game Bird Technical Committee (hereinafter called the Webless Technical Committee) was formed in 1966, coordinated research efforts were explicitly mentioned as an important task (see the Organizational Plan). The following year, the U.S. Congress appropriated $250,000 to be used for webless migratory game bird research under a program called The Accelerated Research Program (ARP). The program lasted until 1982 with $2.5 million having been spent for 122 projects in 41 states. David Dolton, Shore and Upland Game Bird Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provided an overview of the ARP and references to more detailed information in his report History and Administration of the Webless Migratory Game Bird Research Program, 1995-2001.

Dolton provides a reference to a letter written by Clait Braun in 1985, then Research Leader for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, in which Mr.. Braun described the values provided by the ARP. Dolton also refers to a list of 340 publications that resulted from the ARP compiled by Ronnie George, Chairman of the Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Subcommittee and a biologist for the Texas Department of Wildlife. One of the most significant publications was the book entitled Management of Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Species of North America which was published in 1977. The work conducted under the ARP along with other information added such vital knowledge to the migratory bird management field, that a significant update was published in 1994 entitled Migratory Shore and Upland Game Bird Management in North America. (See references.)

Dolton chronicles the efforts that took place after the end of the ARP to reinstitute funding for research specifically directed at webless migratory game birds. Success was finally achieved in 1995, when the Director of what is now the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, Ronald Pulliam, set aside $300,000 for a new program called the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program (WMGBP). This new program, much like the old, has the requirement that at least one-third of the project cost be paid with non-federal dollars. Project proposals are submitted to an evaluation committee and are considered in a competitive atmosphere, thus assuring that only the best projects are funded. Dolton reports that in the first six years of the WMGBP, more than $1.1 million of Program funds were spent on 32 research projects with a total value of over $4 million.

The values of the ARP listed by Clait Braun carry over to the new program. With the ongoing loss of many habitats that webless species depend on, especially wetlands, some research efforts to monitor population health, status and distribution may be even more critical. The use of new technologies such as radios that send there signals through satellites allow for tracking migratory birds in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. These efforts can identify significant life-history biological parameters and point to places where management efforts will be most efficient and effective. Maintaining an adequate and annual funding level for research into the ways of migratory birds is one way of assuring that sound management decisions are made.