Every January, Biologists-Pilots of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in cooperation with State agencies conduct the Mid-winter Waterfowl Surveys. These surveys are designed to be a snapshot in time of ducks, geese, and swans wintering in concentrations in many States. “MidWinters” as we call them provide Federal and State waterfowl biologists with a broad-scale estimate of wintering abundance and distribution of birds across the four Flyways. Although statistically this survey has it’s warts, there is really no better tool available. In specific cases, results of this survey can also be used to assess environmental impacts to wintering habitats, assess avian disease outbreaks, and support acquisition programs for real estate which could be used as refuges for wintering birds.
As expected, this survey is always fraught with delays, most due to weather, but some also caused by aircraft maintenance schedules or equipment failures. Currently, the airplane which we are using to survey the coastal areas of the Carolinas is undergoing a mandated inspection which is required every 100 hours of use. Technicians have been working overtime to return this “bird” to service, and luckily we have not yet missed very many good-weather days while waiting. Our best estimates now are that the aircraft will be ready tomorrow, and we will immediately get back to work, first surveying birds over several islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and then hurrying back to North Carolina to resume work in the Pamlico Sound.
Final results from the 2013 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. Preliminary reports are confirmed -- a total duck population estimate of 45.6 million birds in the traditional survey area, which is a 6% decrease over last year's tally, but still 33% higher than the long term average.
Based on the status report, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed hunting regulations for the upcoming 2013-2014 late waterfowl seasons. Hunting season lengths of 60 days were proposed for the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, with 74 days for the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas) and 107 days for the Pacific Flyway.
A full season on pintails would be offered nation-wide with a two bird daily bag limit, and a full season on canvasbacks with a two bird daily bag limit offered nation-wide. Increased possession limits for ducks and geese to three times the daily bag limit has also been proposed.
Preliminary 2013 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 45.6 million breeding ducks was 6% lower than last year’s estimate of 48.6 million, but was still 33% above the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 6.9 million, which was 24% above last year’s estimate of 5.5 million and 35% above the long-term average of 5.1 million. Despite a delayed spring over most of the survey area, habitat conditions were improved or similar to last year in many areas due to average to above-average annual precipitation, with the exception being southeastern Canada, the northeast U.S., and portions of Montana and the Dakotas. Note: Estimates sometimes change between the preliminary numbers and final results.
May waterfowl survey begins. Photo by
Murray Gillespie (Ducks Unlimited Canada).
Unlike last year's early start, pilot biologists found themselves anxiously waiting for conditions to warrant the start of the 2013 Breeding Population and Habitat Survey. While a few days later than planned many of the 12 air crews began taking to the air the first full week of May, and the associated ground crews have started their field work. Check out the Pilot Biologist Reports for daily reports and images of what they are observing across Canada and the northern U.S. See what the air crews see as they fly fixed-wing aircraft at low altitude (150 ft) over transect lines through waterfowl habitat areas. Over 55,000 miles of transects are flown every year. That’s like counting ducks in a single line over two times around the world!
A cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies, this survey currently covers more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern United States and Canada, and includes most of the primary duck nesting areas in North America.
The Fall Inventory of Mid-Continent White-Fronted Geese was conducted throughout the Canadian prairie in late September and early October and the results are now available. This year's survey yielded 778,000 white-fronted geese in Alberta and Saskatchewan, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Good wetland conditions prevailed through most of the survey area.
Final results from the 2012 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. Preliminary reports are confirmed -- a total duck population estimate of 48.6 million birds in the traditional survey area, which is a 7% increase over last year's tally and 43 percent above the long term average.
Preliminary results for the 2012 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 48.6 million birds was 7% higher than last year’s estimate of 45.6 million, and was 43% above the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 5.5 million, which was 32% below last year’s estimate of 8.1 million and 9% above the long-term average of 5.1 million. Habitat conditions were characterized by average to below-average moisture, a mild winter, and an early spring across the southern portion of the traditional and eastern survey areas. Northern habitats of the traditional and eastern survey areas generally received average moisture and temperatures. Note: Estimates sometimes change between the preliminary numbers and final results.