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Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Shows Rise in Bird Count

Annual Survey Estimates Number of Wintering Duck, Geese, and Swans

Photo of Canada Geese in Flight

Photo by Orietta Estrada

In early January, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources made visual estimates of the ducks, geese, and swans along most of the state’s Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, and Atlantic coast shorelines. This year, the teams counted about 627,000 waterfowl, which was higher than the 566,300 birds observed during 2019, but lower than the five-year average of 738,440 birds.

“The abundance and distribution of wintering waterfowl is influenced not only by the annual changes in population size, but also the weather conditions during migration and throughout the winter,” said Wildlife and Heritage Director Paul Peditto. “Moderate winter weather up and down the east coast has allowed most waterfowl species to remain spread out across Maryland and our surrounding states.”

Overall, the number of dabbling ducks was higher (93,000) than last winter (64,400).  However, fewer diving ducks (149,700) were observed than in the 2019 survey (182,000). Biologists also counted more Canada geese this year (327,200) than last year (250,200). Following 2018’s record low hatch, Atlantic Population Canada geese benefited from normal spring weather conditions on their nesting grounds in 2019, leading to average gosling production. 

The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually since the early 1950s and covers most of the tidal shoreline and near-shore waterfowl habitat in Maryland.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results 2016-2020
Rounded to the nearest hundred

Species

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Mallard

41,800

45,300

64,300

39,000

56,000

Black Duck

19,200

25,500

38,300

17,200

21,000

Gadwall

3,200

11,200

3,100

4,800

10,800

Widgeon

500

1,400

700

1,200

1,100

Green-winged Teal

2,400

2,100

500

1,500

2,000

Northern Shoveler

100

100

0

100

300

Northern Pintail

2,600

2,300

1,100

600

1,800

Total Dabblers

69,800

87,900

108,000

64,400

93,000

Redhead

17,900

20,700

27,500

20,600

10,600

Canvasback

19,800

75,100

60,000

46,000

46,900

Scaup

91,800

138,800

45,300

72,100

59,000

Ring-necked Duck

700

400

300

1,100

3,000

Goldeneye

1,100

700

100

100

300

Bufflehead

26,700

12,900

29,500

13,200

11,400

Ruddy Duck

88,000

35,000

24,500

28,900

18,500

Total Divers

246,000

283,600

187,200

182,000

149,700

Scoters

7,100

4,900

4,500

27,800

5,700

Long-tailed Duck

100

2,700

0

300

200

Mergansers

1,100

2,100

2,300

2,000

2,300

Total Ducks

324,000

381,200

302,000

276,500

250,900

Brant

1,000

900

400

900

900

Snow Goose

32,600

21,300

63,500

34,700

40,900

Canada Goose

293,800

394,700

641,000

250,200

327,200

Tundra Swan

11,200

14,500

16,400

4,000

7,100

Total Waterfowl

663,000

812,600

1,023,300

566,300

627,000


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