Sci-Tech

Midwinter waterfowl survey shows rise in bird count

ANNAPOLIS, MD—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

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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

[Image via Pexels]

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