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DNR Releases 2015 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results

Aerial photo of geese in the lower Chester River

Aerial photo of geese in the lower Chester River

Each winter, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources make visual estimates of ducks, geese and swans along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. This year, the teams witnessed more than 855,500 waterfowl, slightly lower than the 905,000 birds observed during 2014, but higher than the five year average of 757,000.

Biologists attribute this year’s count to the fact large areas of the Bay’s tributaries were ice covered during the survey period, concentrating waterfowl where they were more easily counted.

Overall, dabbling ducks were less abundant (90,800) compared to last winter (128,000). Diving duck numbers (192,000) were similar to the numbers observed last winter (190,300). The survey estimate for redhead ducks (32,200) was the highest since the mid-1970s. The canvasback count (64,200) was one of the highest since the mid-1960s, and similar to the January 2014 estimate (68,400). Survey teams also observed large numbers of wintering Canada geese (504,700), mainly along the upper Chesapeake Bay.

“Waterfowl estimates from the survey vary based upon the abundance and distribution of birds, which are influenced by weather, particularly the extent of snow and ice, food availability and other environmental factors,” said Larry Hindman, DNR waterfowl project leader. “For Example, a large concentration of redheads might be seen in Maryland one year and in other years they are generally found just to the south in Virginia or North Carolina.”

The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually throughout the United States since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results (see chart below) are ultimately pooled with results from other states to provide a measure of the distributional changes and long-term trends of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway.

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Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results, 2011 – 2015

Complete survey results (rounded to the nearest hundred)

Species 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Mallard 55,100 57,400 33,100 75,900 50,000
Black Duck 23,000 27,700 22,500 39,300 30,900
Gadwall 6,400 5,000 7,400 4,000 5,100
Wigeon 200 1,400 500 800 2,200
G-W Teal 600 3,700 6,300 3,900 700
Shoveler 100 200 1,700 100 100
Pintail 1,200 1,200 1,300 4,000 1,800
Total Dabblers 86,600 96,600 72,800 128,000 90,800
Redhead 4,700 4,500 16,700 15,900 32,200
Canvasback 46,100 14,300 18,400 68,400 64,200
Scaup 37,100 69,200 27,500 47,100 55,600
Ring-neck 1,600 1,300 1,900 1,600 300
Goldeneye 300 900 800 1,500 600
Bufflehead 7,800 19,800 15,600 21,800 19,100
Ruddy Duck 17,500 15,300 17,200 34,000 20,000
Total Divers 115,100 125,300 98,100 190,300 192,000
Scoters 200 5,100 2,000 7,600 1,300
Long-tailed Duck 300 800 600 200 100
Mergansers 7,800 2,800 2,000 6,200 3000
Total Ducks 210,000 230,600 175,500 332,400 287,200
Brant 1,500 500 1,500 600 900
Snow Goose 28,200 43,400 83,300 44,200 44,900
Canada Goose 397,700 342,600 462,000 512,100 504,700
Tundra Swan 14,400 16,600 17,300 16,100 17,800
Total Waterfowl 651,800 633,700 739,600 905,500 855,500

  • CMD

    It’s not clear when this survey was conducted, but it would interesting to see a side by side comparison of a survey conducted in mid February and one conducted in mid January when hunting season is actually in.

    • kking13

      Hi CMD,
      Thank you for your comment.

      Here is the response from DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Unit:

      With one exception, the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey in Maryland was conducted January 8 – 10, 2015. The hunting seasons for ducks and geese were open at the time. The exception was the Susquehanna River and Flats which was surveyed in late January (1 day) after the duck hunting season closed.

      The midwinter survey has been done in early January every year since 1955. Early January is a time of least movement as birds are on their traditional wintering areas. The survey is conducted at the same time each year by nearly all lower 48 U.S. states. In most years waterfowl are beginning their return migration northward in February.

      Karis King
      DNR Office of Communications

  • jim

    I hunt the part of carroll co. that isnt considered resident waterfowl, and think it should be changed there are alot of resident geese staying on liberty watershed and piney run.this year every time i hunted the sky looked like a show on ducks unlimited there were hunreds of ducks and geese in the air. all my hunting was done the last part of the season all the way up to last day, and now its the end of march and still seeing geese allover the area fields.

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