6,700 Miles—As The Duck Flies

A duck hunter on the Mississippi Delta noticed that a pintail his retriever brought him on January 2 had a band attached to its leg, which is not an unusual occurrence on the waterfowl-rich flyway.

Freddie Scott took the banded bird over to a well-lighted corner of the blind so he could read the information contained on the metal tag.

Pintail

The first word that caught his eye was different than anything he’d ever seen on a duck or goose band—far different.

It was the word: JAPAN.

“There was no phone number like you usually see on a band,” Scott later told the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger. “There was just a series of numbers and the words ‘Kankyocho-Tokyo Japan,’” he said. “I said out loud ‘this ain’t right,’ and I started thinking somebody was playing a trick.”

Two days later, returning to his home in LaGrange, Ga., Scott began doing some research on his well-traveled waterfowl.

He contacted USDA biologist Jeffrey Lee from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Pearl, Miss., who subsequently was referred to Yamashina Institute of Ornithology Bird Migration Research Center in Konoyama, Japan. And thanks to the wonder of e-mail, within 24 hours Lee discovered the long-distance duck had been banded in Japan, by Ryuhei Honma, a member of the Japanese Bird Banding Association, on Hyoko Lake near the country’s northwestern coast on Feb. 16, 2000.

Band

Hyoko Lake is more than 6,700 miles from Ruleville, Miss.—as the duck flies, that is.

So, not only was Scott’s pintail an incredible world traveler, but it was also a grand old duck, as most wild birds of that species live an average of 2 to 3 years.

“Because the bird was said to have been at least a year old when banded, that means it had to be at least 8 years old,” Lee said. “They also said that prior to this, Utah was the farthest a Japan band had been collected.”

Now there’s a hunting story that one duck hunter will carry around for years—and you can bet the proof will be firmly attached to his duck call lanyard, for everyone to see.