A shooter carries killed ducks through the water.

Duck shooting: cruel and dangerous for Australian wildlife.

Waterbirds and other wildlife continue to suffer in three Australian states for the sake of shooter "recreation".

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated April 18, 2024

For as long as some state governments permit the senseless ‘recreational’ slaughter of ducks, these sensitive native animals will be forced to endure shattered bills, fractured limbs, punctured organs, and ducklings will be left without parents.

Duck shooting was banned in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland in the 90s and early 2000s on animal cruelty and environmental protection grounds. The rest of Australia is years behind. Each year, hundreds of thousands of ducks are killed or left injured on the wetlands they call home across Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

The days are numbered for this cruel ‘recreational’ activity, but while state governments stall on making the obvious, and kindest, decision, wildlife is paying the ultimate price.

In Victoria, the outcome of the recent inquiry into native bird hunting was the recommendation to end it – but the Victorian Labor Government went against this key recommendation and is allowing the slaughter to continue. The South Australian Government also green-lit the continued ‘recreational hunting’ of native birds following its inquiry process, where the recommendation was disappointingly for it to continue.  And in Tasmania (TAS), the state government has said it has no plans to ban this cruel and outdated ‘sport’.


A ‘sport’ of suffering

When it comes to blasting sensitive animals out of the sky with hundreds of pellets, sadly those who are killed instantly are considered the ‘lucky’ ones.

An estimated one out of every four birds shot could suffer for minutes, hours, even days. Some may drown in the water. Some may be scooped up, but instead of being met with kindness, be injured further and eventually killed at the hands of inexperienced shooters. Others who managed to escape will eventually succumb to their injuries, or be preyed upon, unable to flee.

Shooting can also endanger or kill other animals who were never intended as ‘targets’. Birds may be incorrectly identified by shooters, or young birds may be abandoned by their parents who flee the sound of gunfire in fear.

Some of us play golf, like me, some people go shooting. That's a choice they're free to make...
Former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Thousands of victims – each one a sensitive individual

Only a small percentage of the community participates in this outdated ‘sport’, but their actions still result in enormous suffering for wildlife. The ‘shooting season’ length and ‘bag limits’ (kill quotas) means birds can suffer in the hundreds of thousands. Usually “protected ” ducks have their protection status lifted so that shooters can kill them between March and June.

In 2023 alone, it’s estimated over 350,000 ducks were killed in Victoria – not including those wounded and left to die on the wetlands.  This year, following the Inquiry into ‘recreational native bird hunting’ and where evidence of cruelty and suffering was presented, the Victorian Government inconceivably announced a ‘shooting season’ from March 10 to June 5, with a higher killing quota of six birds per day, per shooter.

Also out of step with community expectations, the SA Government has permitted an open duck shooting season from March 16 to June 30, 2024. Last year, the RSPCA SA estimated that nearly 40,000 birds would be killed and up to 10,000 injured during the 2023 ‘season’ – and this year, the killing quota is higher, at ten birds per day.

Surveys of waterbird numbers over recent years in VIC and SA make these numbers even more concerning…

The 2023 annual survey of waterbirds (Eastern Australia, including VIC) indicated that five of the eight ‘game’ species of ducks continue to show significant long-term declines in abundance. Previously hunted, the Blue-winged Shoveler and Hardhead are now, sadly, on Victoria’s threatened species list.

Surveys indicate most “game” duck populations in SA are also struggling, facing long-term declines in abundance – the last thing they need is to be shot for ‘fun’.

Governments should not be waiting for more species to be pushed to the brink as others have – they should be protecting Australian wildlife.


This image contains content which some may find confronting

A dead duck laying on ground shot by the shooters in victoria, australia
Despite being 'protected' and not listed as 'game', this black swan was shot during the 2021 'shooting season'.

The rules in place don’t help wildlife

The rural location of wetlands and the number of licenced shooters make effective monitoring impossible. No regulating body can ensure the rules are being followed by thousands of shooters spread across public game reserves and private property. And individual animals suffer greatly, as do species as a whole.

Shooters in VIC, SA and TAS must pass a Waterfowl Identification Test only once, meaning there is no obligation to refresh their knowledge of duck species before heading out to the wetlands each year. A survey in VIC (conducted by the state’s hunting regulator itself) revealed a shocking 80% of shooters couldn’t identify species they’re permitted to kill and those who are protected. Given the single identification test applies to all states, concern for the safety and future of ‘non-game’ species, including threatened species, is warranted.

Almost beyond comprehension, the rules also permit shooting ducks 30 minutes after sunset in VIC, 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset in SA, and up to an hour before sunrise and after sunset in TAS. The future of some duck species is reliant on a shooter’s ability to identify species at dawn and dusk when there’s barely any sunlight.

There is no requirement to undertake any training or prove any competency in killing injured birds ‘humanely’ in order to obtain a shooting licence. In the aforementioned shooter survey in VIC, 84% didn’t know how to kill ducks they had shot and injured. With no competency test in place, the fragile bodies of sensitive ducks are literally in the hands of potentially inexperienced shooters who are out to kill them ‘for sport’.

Video evidence of cruelty was captured by volunteers on just one of the thousands of Victoria’s wetlands, raising questions as to how much illegal behaviour is going unchecked on wetlands across duck shooting states – and how much wildlife suffering is going unseen.

The rules aren’t protecting the environment either

It was recently revealed that lead ammunition is still being used by some shooters, despite being banned for two decades in VIC – yet another example of the rules in place failing to protect animals and the environment. After causing an excruciating death for birds who are shot and escape, lead remains in the environment for years, posing a threat to protected animals like wedge-tailed eagles and scavenging wildlife. The high levels of lead found in ducks at four Victorian waterways indicated a potential risk to human health too, with levels “well above” food safety standards.


This image contains content which some may find confronting

A duck is violently swung around by their neck, in the hands of a shooter wearing camouflage in a lake.
Regulating bodies, and duck rescuers, cannot be in all places at once. It is therefore impossible to ensure that the rules in place are being followed – and ducks are paying the ultimate price.
Image credit: Doug Gimesy

A ban would be in line with community expectations

More than 30 years have passed since duck shooting was first banned in an Australian state (WA). And the overwhelming majority in the remaining ‘duck shooting’ states – VIC, SA and TAS – want to see this senseless killing finally put to an end.

A recent RSPCA survey found 9 out of 10 Victorians would never shoot a duck. According to the RSPCA SA, more than 7 out of 10 South Australians want to see an end to duck and quail shooting (South Australian ReachTEL poll, March 2020).

In contrast, duck shooters represent less than one per cent of the community in SA. And in TAS, according to Eric Woehler from BirdLife Tasmania, the number of duck shooters represents a similarly low percentage of the community – “about 0.2 per cent…clearly the other 99.8 per cent of the population aren’t necessarily supportive of that way of life.”

Our community has reached a stage of enlightenment where it can no longer accept the institutionalised killing of native birds for recreation.
Dr Carmen Lawrence - Premier of Western Australia in 1990

It is well overdue for VIC, SA and TAS to choose kindness, and make Australia safer for ducks and other native wildlife.

Take a stand for ducks and other wildlife

Live outside of Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania?

See what this ‘recreational activity’ looks like for Australian waterbirds

The below footage was captured in the opening days of 2022 and 2023’s ‘duck shooting seasons’ in Victoria – but duck shooting looks the same wherever it occurs.

So long as state governments permit the shooting of precious wildlife to go on, they are allowing this treatment of Australian animals to continue.