Many of the species of duck that are shot annually in Ireland are migratory birds that visit our shores from Northern Europe. The duck shooting season opens on 1 September and closes on 31 January. There are restrictions on what species can be legally shot. These are published by the two Governmental Departments in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in their respective Wildlife Acts. Failure to comply with these restrictions can result in prosecution.
Often confused with the mallard, especially the hen mallard, this is a regular visitor to Ireland. Gadwall can be found both inland and in coastal areas from mid September onwards. There are breeding colonies of gadwall present in Ireland and their numbers are greatly swelled by the influx of migratory birds from Western Europe
Ireland and Europe's most prolific duck species, the mallard is found in all parts of the country. This is by far the species that turns up in the wildfowler's game bag on the most regular basis. Many of the birds shot in Ireland during the Duck shooting season are local birds but, during periods of hard weather in Northern Britain, large numbers move southwards towards the more milder Irish climate
There is a small breeding population of pintail present in Ireland but the bulk of the birds found during the winter are migrant birds from Northern Europe. The pintail is a prized trophy with the cock bird being particularly sought after because of his striking plumage. Many small waterways and loughs along the Irish coastal plains are visited each winter by flocks of pintail.
The Tufted Duck, or the "tufty" as it is referred to in many parts of Ireland, is both a migratory species and one that breeds here in Ireland. The large freshwater loughs of Ireland are the regular haunts of tufted duck, especially during the latter part of the season when local numbers are swelled by migrants. They decoy well and, when feeding on freshwater, can be extremely good eating.
The wigeon has been described as the Irish wildfowlers' duck. That is to say, the coastal fowlers' duck. The white flash of the speculum on the wing, the whistle of the duck and its fast flight make it one of the most challenging shots on the foreshore. Numbers of wigeon over-wintering in Ireland have greatly reduced over the last twenty years. Reasons cited range from the general trend in the migratory population moving eastward to Holland and the Low Countries, to the reduction of the sea grasses on which they feed in Ireland and the decline in numbers generally in their Northern European breeding grounds. Whatever the reason for their decline, it is the Irish fowler who will, perhaps, miss the wigeon the most.
Few Irish waterways, coastal or inland, do not have teal visiting them during the duck shooting season. The smallest of the duck species found in Ireland, the teal are present wherever there is a flow of water. Small, fast and extremely good eating, this sporting little duck is testing shooting and deservedly respected by Irish fowlers. Inland fowlers love to hear the whistle of teal approaching a small flight pond or a favourite bend in the river. Flighting at dusk and dawn, these are superb sporting duck.
This species of duck arrives in the Northern part of Ireland in late September and stays with us, albeit in small numbers, right through the duck shooting season. Similar in size and appearance to the teal, it is often confused in flight with the teal. The distinctive white eye flash, as opposed to the green of the cock teal, is a simple distinguishing feature as is the lighter under-plumage.
The shoveler is another favourite of the coastal wildfowler who sees an influx of this species from the western European countries around the Christmas period. Their main haunts in Ireland are the estuaries with their areas of mudflats and rich pickings for these sift feeders. Fast flying birds, the shoveler is prizes as a trophy and often the best samples end on the work bench of the local taxidermist./p>
Another of our diving ducks, the pochard or "poker head" as it is generally referred to by wildfowlers. is common on the bigger waterways and loughs of Ireland. The local breeding population is augmented by a large influx of migratory birds at the end of November when the shooting on loughs such as Lough Neagh and the Erne System can be very productive. Rafts of these duck congregate on the open expanses of water in Ireland and they are considered as an excellent species to decoy.