Duck Research

In order to manage game species effectively it is important to quantify the numbers harvested.

The Game Management Authority conducts the following research on duck across the state.

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The Game Management carries out a range of surveys to collect data on duck and quail populations across the state. These surveys inform decisions about setting rules and regulations for hunting seasons, to ensure sustainability in game hunting in Victoria.

Phone surveys help us to estimate the number of duck and quail harvested during the hunting season. These surveys gather information on a wide range of hunting behaviours including about hunter effort, days spent in the field, location, and the number of duck and quail harvested.

The results of these surveys are published annually in a report on the Estimates of harvest for duck and Stubble Quail in Victoria.

We also collect data on the actual daily take by a sample of hunters on the opening weekend, by surveying hunters’ bags. This research is an important component of assessing the impact of the duck hunting season on populations of game species.

Similar surveys have been conducted on opening weekend at Victorian wetlands since 1972 to determine both hunter success and the species involved in opening weekend harvests.

Elements of the hunter bag surveys are informed by A field guide for ageing and sexing Victorian native game birds.

The field guide describes ageing and sexing characters of the Victorian game birds (eight species of duck, and Stubble Quail, focusing on attributes that can be recorded from wings and tail feathers from birds harvested by hunters.

Each year the Game Management Authority conducts phone surveys to estimate the number of deer, duck and quail harvested in the state.

The following reports detail the results of the duck surveys.


Estimates of harvest for duck and Stubble Quail in Victoria 2019 (PDF version)

Hunter's Bag Survey: 2019 Victorian duck hunting season (PDF version)


Estimates of harvest for duck and Stubble Quail in Victoria 2018 (PDF version)

Hunter's Bag Survey: 2018 Victorian duck hunting season (PDF version)


Estimates of harvest for duck and Stubble Quail in Victoria (PDF version)

Hunter's Bag Survey: 2017 Victorian duck hunting season (PDF version)

Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail from 1985 to 2015: Combining mail and telephone survey results (PDF version)


Game Birds

Estimates of harvest for duck and quail in Victoria (PDF Version)

Hunter's Bag Survey: 2016 Victorian duck hunting season (PDF Version)


Game Birds

Estimates of harvest for duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version)

Hunter's Bag Surveys: 2014 and 2015 Victorian duck hunting seasons (PDF version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version) (Word Version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version) (Word Version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version) (Word Version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version) (Word Version)


Estimates of harvest for deer, duck and quail in Victoria (PDF version) (Word Version)

State Game Reserves (SGRs) are an important part of Victoria's park and reserve system.  These reserves were set aside for the conservation of wildlife and to allow for the hunting of game species during the open season.  There are currently 200 SGRs across Victoria which cover an area of about 75,000 hectares.

The first State Game Reserves were purchased using licence fees collected from duck hunters who identified early on that the draining of wetlands was seriously impacting waterbird habitat and populations.  Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve was the first SGR to be proclaimed in 1958 and ever since these reserves have played an important role in conservation and recreation.  In addition to game hunting opportunities during the open season, these reserves provide recreational opportunities for water sports, camping, bird-watching and fishing all year round.

Critically, this network of reserves plays an important conservation role at both the local and international scale. Seventy SGRs support threatened species and eighteen SGRs are listed as wetland of significant importance under the international RAMSAR convention.

To better inform the management of these important reserves, the Game Management Authority, with the assistance of Parks Victoria, have conducted a state-wide audit of the reserves.  The results of this audit are provided in the report below.

In 2010, an expert Scientific Panel was convened by the Adaptive Harvest Management subcommittee of the Hunting Advisory Committee to recommend a robust scientific approach to sustainable waterfowl harvesting in Victoria that would:

  • consider previous work and evaluate the current harvest approach in Victoria
  • investigate other approaches adopted throughout the world and relevant scientific research
  • into adaptive and other wildlife harvest management models consider the existing literature on the ecology and biology of Australian waterfowl
  • populations (habitat utilisation, population dynamics, movement patterns, etc.) whendeveloping an approach on harvest management
  • identify a scientific credible harvest management model that can be delivered at minimal cost.

The report below details the comittee's findings and recommendations for an adaptive harvest model.

The Victorian government has committed to implementing the Waterfowl Conservation Harvest Model to ensure the sustainable hunting of game ducks.

GMA commissioned ARI and NSW DPI researchers to undertake the review.  A report has been prepared and makes a series of recommendations to improve and modernise the approach.

The review proposes a staged approach to implementation across the immediate, mid and longer-terms, scaling up as more information becomes available and ultimately allowing the model to operate in a more sophisticated way.

The Summer Waterbird Count is conducted in February each year.

Since 1987, various government agencies and departments have monitored selected Victorian wetlands to provide information on game duck distribution and abundance, waterbird breeding and, importantly, any concentrations of rare or threatened species and colonially breeding waterbirds. The collected data is used to consider whether wetlands should be closed to duck hunting to protect non-game or breeding waterbirds, including waterfowl.


2019 Summer Waterbird Count

2018 Summer Waterbird Count

2017 Summer Waterbird Count

2016 Summer Waterbird Count

2014 and 2015 Summer Waterbird Count

This report identifies key features that can be used to determine age and sex of nine game bird species (eight ducks and the Stubble Quail).

These age and sex characteristics were identified by examining museum skins, and wing and tail specimens obtained from hunters during opening weekend of the 2017 and 2018 duck hunting seasons.

The report doubles as a field guide with commissioned paintings showing the differences between males and females, and between adults and juveniles.

This information can be used to inform decisions about the hunting season, such as the duration of the season and daily bag limits.

This field guide equips the waterfowl hunter with information to assist them in identifying the age, sex and moulting stages in harvested game ducks.

This information can provide insight into a population's productivity, current status and recruitment from season to season.

All waterfowl hunters in Victoria must be competent in identifying different waterbird species. However, this guide is not intended to educate hunters on species identification, but rather to illustrate methods of determining age, sex and moult.

Page last updated: 17 Jun 2020