Waterfowl Population Surveys

Duck headAs the name suggests, population surveys are used primarily to track the status of waterfowl populations—the number of individuals of a certain species in a certain place at a certain time; however, habitat and other data may also be collected. Because population surveys focus on the number of birds, they tend to be of great interest to hunters preparing for the upcoming seasons.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is the most extensive and most important of North America's waterfowl population surveys. This survey is a cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies. It 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 Wintering Ground Surveys and the Mexican Waterfowl Survey provide population indices for most species of ducks and geese on wintering areas throughout the United States and Mexico.

Some population surveys – the Migration Surveys -- are conducted during the spring and autumn migrations, where a pilot-biologist and observer count birds along established transect lines.

Morning departure for Surveys. (Credit: Samantha Gibbs, USFWS)

Morning departure for Surveys. Samantha Gibbs, USFWS

Helicopter crew: Paul Padding (L) and Dr. Samantha Gibbs (R), USFWS, and Doug Holtby (center), Senior Pilot with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. (Credit: Samantha Gibbs, USFWS)

Helicopter crew: Paul Padding (L) and Dr. Samantha Gibbs (R), USFWS, and Doug Holtby (center), Senior Pilot with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Samantha Gibbs, USFWS