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2016 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results Released

Photo of ducks flying over water

Photo by J. Scott Bruce

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 the ducks, geese and swans along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. This year, the teams counted approximately 663,000 waterfowl, lower than the 855,500 birds observed during 2015 and less than the five year average of 759,460.

Biologists attribute much of the year-to-year variation to weather conditions. The abnormally warm weather the eastern United States experienced through the fall and early winter delayed waterfowl migration to the Chesapeake region, lowering the amount of birds in the region during the survey.

“Due to this warm weather, some birds, especially geese and canvasbacks, were very late arriving in the state,” Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said.

Overall, dabbling ducks were less abundant (69,800) compared to last winter (90,800). Diving duck numbers (246,000) were higher than those observed last winter (192,000).

Survey teams observed more scaup (91,800) and ruddy ducks (88,000) in 2016 compared to counts of 55,600 and 20,000 respectively last year. Scaup and ruddy ducks were concentrated in the lower Chester River and along the Calvert County bay shoreline.

The Canada goose count (293,800) was one of the lowest in recent years and below the five year average of 423,040.

The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results (see table 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.

Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results, 2012 – 2016

Figures rounded to the nearest hundred

Species 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Mallard 57,400 33,100 75,900 50,000 41,800
Black Duck 27,700 22,500 39,300 30,900 19,200
Gadwall 5,000 7,400 4,000 5,100 3,200
Wigeon 1,400 500 800 2,200 500
G-W Teal 3,700 6,300 3,900 700 2,400
Shoveler 200 1,700 100 100 100
Pintail 1,200 1,300 4,000 1,800 2,600
Total Dabblers 96,600 72,800 128,000 90,800 69,800
Redhead 4,500 16,700 15,900 32,200 17,900
Canvasback 14,300 18,400 68,400 64,200 19,800
Scaup 69,200 27,500 47,100 55,600 91,800
Ring-neck 1,300 1,900 1,600 300 700
Goldeneye 900 800 1,500 600 1,100
Bufflehead 19,800 15,600 21,800 19,100 26,700
Ruddy Duck 15,300 17,200 34,000 20,000 88,000
Total Divers 125,300 98,100 190,300 192,000 246,000
Scoters 5,100 2,000 7,600 1,300 7,100
Long-tailed Duck 800 600 200 100 100
Mergansers 2,800 2,000 6,200 3,000 1,100
Total Ducks 230,600 175,500 332,400 287,200 324,000
Brant 500 1,500 600 900 1,000
Snow Goose 43,400 83,300 44,200 44,900 32,600
Canada Goose 342,600 462,000 512,100 504,700 293,800
Tundra Swan 16,600 17,300 16,100 17,800 11,200
Total Waterfowl 633,700 739,600 905,500 855,500 663,000

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