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John Oliver shines light on Federal Duck Stamp contest

John Oliver
This is an actual screen shot of HBO host John Oliver discussing Duck Stamps on “Last Week Tonight” on HBO.
This painting of Redheads by James Hautman will become the 2022-23 Federal Duck Stamp. Credit: © USFWS

Sunday, September 26, turned out to be a big day for the Federal Duck Stamp. In the early afternoon, the annual art competition concluded with the first-place selection of an acrylic painting of a pair of Redheads (right) by Minnesota artist James Hautman, which will be made into the 2022-2023 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp.” It was Hautman’s sixth win in the Duck Stamp contest.

The art includes hunters in a boat in the background, to adhere to rules put in place by the Trump administration that Duck Stamps needed to have hunting imagery in the paintings. The Biden administration has dropped that rule for future Duck Stamp contests.

Back to Sunday’s events. Several hours after the contest concluded, John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” aired a segment about the Duck Stamp on his Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning show (and no, I am not making this up!). Oliver gave a quick history of the stamp, explained the fact that it has raised more than $1.1 billion for habitat conservation, and spotlighted a feud among a couple of Duck Stamp artists. Then he revealed that he and his production team were responsible for the entries of five rather unorthodox paintings into this year’s contest. Here is a series of tweets about the paintings:



Oliver also said that even though none of the paintings received a single vote from the judges, he would auction them off on eBay this week, and all of the proceeds would be donated to the Federal Duck Stamp program. You can see them at as well. The bidding is open until 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, October 1.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, the combined bidding was up to more than $56,200 for the paintings.

Many people on social media commented that they hoped the “Last Week Tonight” team would also sell prints of the art works. I mention this because I’m 100 percent interested in seeing prints as well, so am boosting this request into the universe in hopes of making it happen.


Hautman’s Redhead art will go on sale in June 2022. Duck Stamps sell for $25 and raise approximately $40 million in sales each year. These funds support critical conservation to protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.

Since it was first established in 1934, sales of the Duck Stamp to hunters, birdwatchers, outdoor enthusiasts, and collectors have raised more than $1.1 billion to conserve over 6 million acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current Federal Duck Stamp. Many non-hunters, including birdwatchers, conservationists, stamp collectors, and others also purchase the stamp in support of habitat conservation. Additionally, a current Federal Duck Stamp can be used for free admission to any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.


UPDATE: Read our followup story about how much money the auction raised. 

John Oliver’s segment about the Duck Stamp

Here’s John Oliver’s segment about the Duck Stamp. If you aren’t familiar with Oliver’s satirical brand of humor, please note that he uses salty language and this video isn’t bleeped.

Here’s a Flickr gallery showing all of this year’s entries in the contest.

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at [email protected].

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