Birders interested in conservation and habitat protection can do no better than to participate in the Federal Duck Stamp program. Widely acclaimed as one of the most successful conservation initiatives in history, the Duck Stamp program has grown from a simple hunting license to a widely anticipated annual program for many naturalists.
About the Federal Duck Stamp Program
The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp program is a project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The $15 stamps feature exquisitely detailed waterfowl, and while they are not valid for postage, Duck Stamps serve as migratory waterfowl hunting licenses for all hunters over the age of 16. Non-hunters can enjoy the stamps as well, as each one provides free admission into National Wildlife Refuges for hiking, birding and other activities. New stamps are issued annually and are valid from July 1 through June 30.
The first Duck Stamps were issued in 1934 for just $1. Since that time, more than 120 million stamps have been purchased, raising more than $750 million for the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. With that money, more than 5.3 million acres of habitat have been purchased and preserved, giving not only waterfowl but also other birds and wildlife suitable sanctuaries across the country. Approximately $.98 from every dollar spent on Duck Stamps goes directly toward purchasing habitat to expand the National Wildlife Refuge system, making the program one of the most efficient conservation programs in history.
Duck Stamp Art Contests
The 1934-1935 Duck Stamp was an image of two mallards landing on a marsh pond. Artist J.N. “Ding” Darling created the image by presidential request, and for several years other notable artists were asked to create the Duck Stamp images.
In 1949, the first annual art contest was held to find a Duck Stamp image, and the annual event now draws hundreds of amateur and professional entries. Artists are asked to depict one of several waterfowl, and a panel of judges selects each year’s new stamp. The top 20 designs are exhibited through museum tours, bird festivals, wildlife galleries and other events to further spread awareness of the Duck Stamp program.
The beautiful quality and grace of the artistic renderings of waterfowl have made Duck Stamps popular collectibles. Full panes of stamps are available, as are commemorative versions in different displays. Officially licensed reproductions can be found on different souvenir and collectible items, and the royalties from those sales also go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. While winning artists receive no prize other than the recognition they get through the distribution of their stamps, they can sell prints of their work.
Junior Duck Stamps
The success of the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps led to the creation of the Junior Duck Stamp program in 1989. Junior Duck Stamps are created through a youth art contest, and the $5 stamps fund environmental education programs to raise awareness of the importance of habitat conservation, using the arts as a medium to reach youth and educate them about the environment.
Do Birders Need Stamps?
In recent years, the number of hunters has declined, making it more important than ever for birders, hikers and other interested conservationists to support the Duck Stamp program. While is it not required for birders to buy Duck Stamps to enjoy their hobby, many birders do support the program because it directly impacts habitat conservation for waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, passerines and other birds. Birders who travel can also take advantage of great savings through the free admission into National Wildlife Refuges with the stamps.
Getting Your Duck Stamps
Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased from select post offices, sporting goods stores and other retailers where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The stamps can also be purchased online at www.DuckStamp.com, and many birding groups may purchase the stamps to offer conveniently to their members. Duck Stamps also make great gifts for birders, art enthusiasts and stamp collectors, and every stamp sold helps benefit the birds.
Image – 2009-2010 Federal Duck Stamp © U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service