Each year the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will specify five eligible species/habitat for the competition. After winning, a species will be removed and will be replaced by a new one the following year.
For 2014, the five eligible species/habitats are:
1. Tundra Swan
In North Carolina tundra swans are primarily located in coastal sounds, rivers, lakes and managed waterfowl impoundments. They are found in extremely large numbers on several coastal lakes including Lake Mattamuskeet, Pungo Lake, and Lake Phelps. Swans are also readily observed feeding in the numerous agricultural fields in the area, principally winter wheat. Irrespective of final habitat background chosen, it must resemble that found in North Carolina where tundra swans are located. If an agricultural setting is chosen, the topography is flat.
2. Black Duck
Although highest densities of Black Ducks are found in coastal areas, black ducks may be found throughout North Carolina. In coastal North Carolina, large numbers of Black Ducks utilize brackish marsh dominated by black needlerush and cordgrass. In coastal areas, black ducks may also be found in beaver ponds, bottomland hardwood wetlands and cypress-water tupelo swamps. In central and western North Carolina, black ducks are typically located in beaver ponds and bottomland hardwood wetlands.
In North Carolina, Atlantic brant are found in the open waters of Pamlico Sound, primarily near Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke. This type of habitat generally lacks in distinguishable features other than the vastness of the waters of Pamlico Sound and the adjacent “Outer Banks”. Shoals may be slightly exposed at low tide. The only other distinguishable features include several small islands of sparse vegetation where brant may congregate and hunting blinds typical of the area.
Gadwall are primarily located in coastal areas, but may be found in a variety of habitats within this area. Habitat background chosen should be representative of North Carolina and a type where gadwall are commonly observed. Examples include, but are not limited to emergent marsh and cypress-water tupelo dominated millponds.
5. Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser are found statewide in North Carolina and in a variety of habitats. Typical habitats include: generally slow-moving rivers and streams throughout the state, farm ponds, mill ponds and lakes.