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Annual Survey Estimates Number of Ducks, Geese and Swans

Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Shows Increase from 2017

Photo of Canadian geese landing on water, taken by J. Scott Bruce

Photo by J. Scott Bruce

Each winter, aerial survey teams of biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make visual estimates of ducks, geese and swans along the state’s coast and shoreline. This year, teams counted about 1,023,300 waterfowl, well above the 812,600 birds observed during 2017 and higher than the five-year average of 851,980.

In general, biologists attribute much of the year-to-year variation to weather conditions in Maryland, as well as other locations on flyways used by migratory birds.

“Cold weather and accompanying ice and snow to our north will typically push birds south as they search for food and open water,” Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said. “The more severe that cold weather is the more dramatic migrations to more southerly locations can be.”

Overall, dabbling ducks were higher (108,000) than last winter (87,900). Diving duck numbers (187,200) were lower when compared to last winter (283,600). Survey teams observed the most Canada geese (641,200) since the survey began in 1955. The 641,200 Canada geese observed in this year’s survey was higher than the previous record of 608,000 in 1981. An above average hatch by the Atlantic, or migratory, population Canada geese coupled with an influx of resident Canada geese from states to the north of Maryland, most likely account for the record high count.

The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled to provide a measure of the distributional changes and long-term trends of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results 2014-2018
Figures rounded to the nearest hundred
Species 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Mallard 75,900 50,000 41,800 45,300 64,300
Black Duck 39,300 30,900 19,200 25,500 38,300
Gadwall 4,000 5,100 3,200 11,200 3,100
Widgeon 800 2,200 500 1,400 700
G-W Teal 3,900 700 2,400 2,100 500
Shoveler 100 100 100 100 0
Pintail 4,000 1,800 2,600 2,300 1,100
Total Dabblers 128,000 90,800 69,800 87,900 108,000
Redhead 15,900 32,200 17,900 20,700 27,500
Canvasback 68,400 64,200 19,800 75,100 60,000
Scaup 47,100 55,600 91,800 138,800 45,300
Ring-neck 1,600 300 700 400 300
Goldeneye 1,500 600 1,100 700 100
Bufflehead 21,800 19,100 26,700 12,900 29,500
Ruddy Duck 34,000 20,000 88,000 35,000 24,500
Total Divers 190,300 192,000 246,000 283,600 187,200
Scoters 7,600 1,300 7,100 4,900 4,500
Long-tailed Duck 200 100 100 2,700 0
Mergansers 6,200 3,000 1,100 2,100 2,300
Total Ducks 332,400 287,200 324,000 381,200 302,000
Brant 600 900 1,000 900 400
Snow Goose 44,200 44,900 32,600 21,300 63,500
Canada Goose 512,100 504,700 293,800 394,700 641,200
Tundra Swan 16,100 17,800 11,200 14,500 16,400
Total Waterfowl 905,500 855,500 663,000 812,600 1,023,300

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