Waterfowl hunting


Ratification Date: 10 Feb 2023


The hunting of waterfowl using shotguns is opposed, as it often causes unnecessary pain and suffering to the birds.


Recreational hunting

For most of the year, native water birds are protected under native wildlife laws. Duck hunting is banned in the ACT, NSW, QLD and WA.  However, in the NT, SA, Tasmania and Victoria, there are declared ‘open seasons’ in which some species of ducks and other waterfowl are permitted to be shot for sport. 

The hunting of waterfowl using shotguns may result in the non-fatal injury of a proportion of target birds resulting in pain and suffering.  Often only those birds aligned with the central cluster of pellets will be fatally injured; birds hit at the perimeter of the shotgun volley may receive pellet injury and survive.1 A study done in Minnesota USA reported approximately one-third of ducks are injured but escape capture.2 A similar study in Victoria reported 14% to 33% of birds were wounded but not retrieved.3

Wing, bill and leg fractures are common in surviving birds.  If left, wounded birds can suffer from the disabling effects of the injury, including pain and infection, or thirst or starvation if unable to drink or eat. All of these increase the likelihood of being taken by a predator.1

Clausen et al (2017) note that crippling due to shotgun injury constitutes an ethical and animal-welfare problem but also may affect population dynamics. Mortality due to crippling may not happen immediately after injury and may take days or weeks from long-term effects. Retained shotgun pellets have been found in around 10% of birds surveyed, even after intensive hunter education campaigns.4  Lead contamination of the environment is also a potential environmental and public health concern.5

A radiographical study in Victoria carried out over almost 20 years reported that between 6% and 19% of trapped live ducks (of mixed species) had embedded shot.6

Shooting for recreational purposes can also result in disruption of other nesting species such as swans due to noise and movement disturbance.7

Cultural hunting

If hunting is performed for cultural or food purposes, methods which cause immediate insensibility followed by death should be used.

Other relevant policies


  1. Shooting of Pest Birds (BIR001) Standard Operating Procedure: https://pestsmart.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/06/BIR001-SOP.pdf
  2. Szymanski, ML & Afton, AD, 2005, Effects of spinning-wing decoys on flock behavior and hunting vulnerability of mallards in Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol 33 No 3, 993-1001.
  3. Norman FI & Powell DGM (1981) Rates of recovery of bands, harvest patterns and estimates for black duck, chestnut teal, grey teal and mountain duck shot during Victorian open seasons, 1953-77. Australian Wildlife Research8:659-664.
  4. Clausen KK, Holm TE, Haugaard L, Madsen J (2017). Crippling ratio: A novel approach to assess hunting-induced wounding of wild animals. Ecological Indicators, Volume 80, pp242-246, ISSN 1470-160X.
  5. Whitehead, Peter J. and Tschirner, Kurt (1991). Lead shot ingestion and lead poisoning of magpie geese anseranas semipalmata foraging in a Northern Australian hunting reserve. Biological Conservation,58(1):99-118.
  6. Norman FI (1976) The incidence of lead shotgun pellets in waterfowl (Anatidae and Rallidae) examined in south-eastern Australia between 1957 and 1973. Australian Wildlife Research3:61-71.
  7. https://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/fearful-swans-abandon-their-nests-at-start-of-duck-shooting-season-20220318-p5a5yd.html?fbclid=IwAR0I7aBejUHqOrAdnj78HS-UUqbFbW6hgpXylMeM7jPHEhuxgL-X4Y3n8Ao