Like farming, a love for hunting is something that has been passed down through our family for generations. Lucky for us, our acreage is a hot spot for migrating waterfowl to rest and eat while traveling south for the winter. Yes, it’s great to have thousands upon thousands of birds come through for hunting purposes, but the lasting, positive impact their journey has on our crops is a plus as well.
After the crop is harvested, we flood some of our fields for the migrating waterfowl that are sure to fly over our land. Ducks dabble in the shallow water searching for waste grain, weed seeds and aquatic invertebrates to give them a boost along their journey. Geese are also frequent visitors. They chow down on leftover rice grain, as well as the roots of rice stalks.
Even the fields we don’t purposely flood for the birds attract a great number of geese. The fields that are not flooded boast what’s left of the rice plants after harvest—rice straw. If we don’t leave ruts during harvest, we will knock the straw down and let it sit until next spring when we are ready to plant. When the birds land and walk around searching for food, they help fertilize the soil by pushing the straw into the mud where it decomposes. They also eat the rice grains left behind from harvest and weed seeds that remain in the fields.
These little bits of seed the ducks and geese enjoy sure do add up. In 2014, Ducks Unlimited scientists for the Rice Foundation reported that 35 percent of the food available to migrating birds is found where rice is grown in the United States. Clearly, it’s a ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ relationship with the migrating waterfowl that come through the Mississippi Delta.