Why John buys duck stamps and why you should too

24 Mar

You may hope that the Florida legislature provides the funds to buy land for water storage but I know that when I buy a duck stamp the 98 cents of every dollar is mandated to buy wetlands.

Duck stamps are the greatest federal program in existence. 98 cents out of every dollar goes to buy wetlands. That is a Federal mandate. Since 1934, when the program began, it has purchased or leased over 6 million acres of wetland – an area nearly the size of Maryland. Much of this area is now part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. It’s the envy of the world.

Stamps have enabled the purchase of over 2500 acres at the Arthur Marshall refuge and almost 86,000 acres in 6 other refuges in Florida.

And here is the backstory:

In 1934, our country suffered in severe economic depression. Real needs were many; financial resources were slim to non-existent.  At the same time, our abundant natural resources were rapidly disappearing. In an era when hunting still provided the meat on many tables, it seemed there were more hunters than ducks.

As chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, forerunner of today’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, J. N. “Ding” Darling devised a program wherein hunters became stewards of the wildlife they hunted.

“Ding” Darling was most widely known for his editorial cartoons, which appeared in nearly 150 newspapers nationwide and earned him two Pulitzer Prizes.

Although “Ding” earned his living as an editorial cartoonist, his passion was teaching the wise use of the world’s natural resources. Skilled in public speaking, articulate in writing, Darling devoted his special talents to conservation education and to developing programs and institutions which would benefit wildlife.


One of “Ding’s” cartoons

Darling’s Design for the First Federal Duck Stamp~1934 is especially significant to conservation. After he had guided the funding for the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act through Congress, Darling sketched his concept of a suitable image for the First Federal Duck Stamp. With its enthusiastic adoption, a remarkable program of stewardship was born that endures today, more than a half-century later. Here is an image of “Ding” Darlings original stamp:



Not only does the stamp provide the funds to buy and maintain the wetlands it provides a beautiful piece of artwork. Every fall hundreds of painters across the country compete in the Federal Duck Stamp contest, which gives participants a chance to have their paintings featured on the duck stamp of the year. So when you buy the stamp not only are you saving wetlands but you are buying a wonderful piece of art. Here is an image of the current stamp depicting Trumpeter Swans

2016-2017 Federal Duck Stamp

If you want a great read about the peculiar world of competitive duck painting then pick up a copy of The Wild Chase by Martin J. Smith. This book follows the Federal Duck stamp contest of 2010. If you saw and liked the movie “Best In Show” you will really enjoy this book. Some of the descriptions of the ducks and geese in the 2010 duck stamp contest were hilarious. The Brant, a smallish goose is like a feathered Martha Stuart – they put more down in their nests (for insulation) than any other waterfowl. The Northern Shoveler is Lady Gaga of the wetlands – iridescent green head and neck and really showy plumage. The Ruddy duck is an oddball – a skyblue bill that is just ridiculous. The Ruddy Duck appeared on the stamp in 2016

Ruddy Duck

Another interesting duck is the Red-breasted Merganser who looks like he had his hair styled by Woody Woodpecker.  The bird appeared on the 1994 stamp.



I hope you will consider the purchase of a stamp as part of your conservation effort. Here is a link to the Federal website that contains a lot of duck stamp information:


I buy my stamps from the US Post Office and here is that link:


Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Uncategorized


9 responses to “Why John buys duck stamps and why you should too

  1. Jacquie

    March 25, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I had no idea! Thank you for the enlightenment. I adore your posts.

  2. John Bradford

    March 25, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Unfortunately, not a lot of people are aware of the good that the stamps do. George is the usual author of the blog and he’s happy that people enjoy his posts.

  3. annsbirdventures

    March 25, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Not many people give credit to the folks who were instrumental in contributing to the start of our National Wildlife Refuge system – duck hunters! Of course, they are required to buy duck stamps, and in my opinion I think anyone who uses our refuges, national parks, national forests, etc. for any purpose, should pay their fair share to support them – and buying duck stamps is one way to do this. Federal funds (from our taxes) do not pay for all the needs of upkeep on these lands. As non-consumptive birdwatchers, we take great pleasure in supporting these public lands by buying duck stamps. Do it! It’s the right thing!
    Ann Yeend Weinrich

    • John Bradford

      March 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      You are absolutely right, Ann. And a lot duck hunters, who know the value of conservation,will buy multiple stamps to help the effort.

  4. Sally Hart Brodie

    March 25, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    My first job after graduating from college was with the National Wildlife Federation. I got to play ‘Ranger Rick’ and answer all of the letters from children and their parents written to ‘Ranger Rick’. It was a wonderful place to work and I remember the Duck Stamps. Have not seen them in years and did not know they were still around. thank you so much for this. Brings back memories and I will surely purchase a bunch of these. FYI – we had 35 red breasted mergansers off of our little beach on Indian River Lagoon earlier this week. One adult male and 34 either females or immatures, couldn’t tell. I have the pictures to prove it. We thought he looked like he had a harem! A very large harem.

    • John Bradford

      March 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Ranger Rick is a great resource for kids. I’ve never seen a Red-brested Merganser but after seeing your comment I checked the stamp list and found that they had only appeared on 1 stamp. What a neat looking duck. I added the stamp image to the post so all can appreciate the look of this bird.

  5. friedova

    March 25, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Hi John: It took a while for we Canucks to get on board ( as the stamps support the Migratory Birds Convention, a USA Canada treaty), but we did back in 1985! Here is the story:

    • John Bradford

      March 25, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks for the link – that is a really interesting read. $50 million in support to the refuges as well as some beautiful artwork. I bookmarked the page and added to my Duck Stamp links.


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