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By another name: Duck shooting in NSW

Life in the air

“In New South Wales, which does not have a recreational shooting season for waterbirds, an estimated 49,750 ducks were shot during the 2016-17 rice growing period”.

Peter and Andrea Hylands

May 21, 2023

Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory each have a recreational shooting season. The result is the cruel death of hundreds of thousands of Australian waterbirds each year. Much of this killing occurs on Ramsar sites. The killing does not stop there. Landing image above: Andrea Hylands and Laurie Levy.

Waterbirds in New South Wales

The killing of protected native waterbirds in New South Wales occurs on private land and shooters from other states also travel to New South Wales to participate in this activity.

This story describes the species and the numbers of birds shot as authorised by the New South Wales Government issued Native Game Bird Management licences in 2016-17. The practice continues.

There are around1,500 farm businesses growing rice in the Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley. The industry has relied heavily on chemical pesticides when ducks could have been part of the 'pest' control solution. There are also rice farms on the Victorian side of the border.

"Numbers (of birds) are building up". NSW DPI to Peter Hylands, August 2018

The claims from the New South Wales Government could never have been correct and are part of a spin that seeks to allow the mass killing of birdlife.

The shooting of Australia's birdlife on rice fields in the Murray Darling system and associated rivers takes place during the breeding season.  

The welfare of young birds is not a consideration.

"What it means for duck hunters who venture to the state of NSW is for an opportunity to participate in the most fast and frantic water fowling available in this country". 

What the shooters mean by this is that no one is looking.

Birds are not silly animals, a large number of birds shot during the start of the recreational duck shooting season are juvenile birds, the next generation, and in their first year of life, if they survive the first year then they are the wiser (and also very lucky).

As of 2016, it is here that waterbirds in one of the most extensive river systems in the world, the Murray Darling, have now declined by more than 75 per cent in the last three decades.

Permits and bird numbers by species 2016

Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides 146

Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata 9,412

Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa 11,700

Australasian Shoveler Anas rhynchotis 65

Chestnut Teal Anas castanea 54

Grey Teal Anas gracilis 25,028

Hardhead Aythya australis 1,121

Pink Eared Duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus 882

Plumed Whistling Duck Dendrocygna eytoni 1,342


There have been no prosecutions in New South Wales regarding illegal conduct and cruelty and the New South Wales Government is not investigating non-lethal methods of control.

"Shooting on the NSW rice fields has always been seen by Victorian duck shooters as being just another recreational shoot, disguised as crop mitigation.  They see it as their second opening for the year. I despair at the large number of wounded birds that would suffer a lonely and long death out of view of anyone.” Laurie Levy

The New South Wales Government claim that less than five percent of the total numbers of owner / occupier licenses are to control native ‘game’ ducks not killed on rice fields.

In our beautiful Prefecture of Gifu the rice paddies in Shirakawa-go are teaming with life

Aigamo duck-rice culture

“One duck and a thousand treasures” .

The quote above is from Japanese duck rice farmer Takao Furuno, talking about the Aigamo duck-rice culture.

“The Aigamo is a cross-breed of wild and domestic ducks. The Aigamo method for growing rice involves releasing Aigamo ducklings into a rice paddy about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been planted. Between 15 and 20 of these birds are needed for every 1,000 square meters of farmland”.

Andrea and Bryan documenting the abundant life in the rice paddies in Shirakawa-go

Severe drought and a government promoting the slaughter

2016, yet another slaughter of native waterbirds begins in the Australian state of New South Wales in October. The droughts are very severe and this means that where there is water, concentrations of birdlife are likely to be high.

The New South Wales Government is running the following ad on its DPI website. Events are being held around Melbourne and in Sydney.

“NSW landholders who grow rice need the help of hunters again this year to protect crops vulnerable to damage from native game ducks. If you are interested in being a part of the NSW Native Game Bird Management Program, the NSW DPI Game Licensing Unit's Wildlife Management Team are hosting informal information nights, where you'll find out…”.

A recreational shoot

In 1986, when the campaign to stop the mass slaughter of waterbirds began in Victoria, shooting in the New South Wales rice fields was considered by most Victorian duck shooters as a recreational shoot and their second opening in October.

This idea remains.

“Rice farm owners and / or managers would apply for destruction permits to shoot waterbirds so that their mates could come up for a recreational shoot”.  

However, there are rice farmers in New South Wales who do not shoot native waterbirds. 

Research by the CSIRO going back to the 1930s concluded that native duck species are not a problem as they take only a small amount of rice, but help to keep the 'pests' to rice crops in an arid landscape at bay, including blood worms, invertebrates and snails.

Asian rice farmers take domestic ducks onto their rice fields to lessen any damage to crops.

Once again this is a killing culture in Australia, this time in New South Wales, with a NSW government department promoting these shooting activities, while most of the shooting is still done for recreational purposes.

Swan story

There are many terrible and cruel stories from the Ramsar killing fields involving individual birds. Here is just one of tens of thousands of these stories.

This case of cruelty, which is 'illegal', and from the state of Victoria, is from 2011. Lawless as always when it comes to the natural world, a place where anything goes.

"A Black Swan sits on her nest, shooting all around her. Hunters spot the gracious and beautiful swan and decide to use its nesting site as a platform to shoot from. They kick the Swan’s eggs into the water, now shattered and broken, young bodies mixed with yoke. As the mother tries to defend her nest, she is filled with shot at point blank range. Like the thousands of birds around, her our brave mother dies in agony".

Shown above is the X-ray of her broken body. Her broken family lays around her.