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Aerial Waterfowl Survey Shows Increase in Duck Numbers

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Duck Aerial Survey

 

MDWFP conducted an aerial waterfowl survey November 17 – 20. Overall, duck estimates were considerably greater than recent years’ November estimates. Mallard numbers were nearly double that of estimates in November of 2011. Dabbling duck (other than mallards) estimates were also greater than those from past November surveys. Dabblers comprised over half of all duck observations with northern shovelers comprising the majority of these observations. Diving duck estimates were very similar to estimates in recent years.

In contrast to most November surveys, waterfowl habitat availability was greater. However,  a lack of actively pumped water was still observed in most of the Mississippi Delta, especially the northwest and southern regions. Also, an abundance of harvested agricultural fields have been disked, resulting in less available food for waterfowl. Similar to recent years, flooded habitat generally increased as survey transects moved further northeast.

The northeastern portion of the Delta contained the greatest abundance of ducks overall, as well as the greatest amount of flooded habitat across the landscape. Mallards were more abundant in this region than other portions of the Delta. The northeastern region of the Delta contained the greatest abundances of dabbling ducks other than mallards and diving ducks as well.

Most mallards were observed using flooded agricultural fields, followed by moist-soil habitat (natural vegetation, shallowly flooded). Most other dabblers and diving ducks were observed using large catfish pond complexes, moist-soil, and permanent wetlands such as oxbow lakes and sloughs. Few ducks were observed using isolated patches of habitat. Ducks were highly concentrated within large contiguous complexes of flooded habitat.

The November aerial waterfowl survey conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission showed similar trends to those observed in Mississippi with total duck estimates remaining similar to recent years, but with much greater mallard observations. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ aerial survey also reported much greater total duck numbers than their past November surveys, especially for species such as gadwall, scaup, and northern pintail. This could explain why Arkansas and Mississippi did not observe the same trends in dabbler and diver abundance as observed for mallards. Many early migrant dabblers observed in recent weeks in Mississippi leading up to this week’s survey may have migrated south.

Hunters are reminded that quality waterfowl habitat is in relatively short supply during this time of year. Although there are many factors influencing waterfowl migration, this shortage in habitat may cause ducks to be concentrated in certain areas, which could lead to excellent hunting. For the full November survey report, visit our website at https://www.mdwfp.com/waterfowl. The next aerial waterfowl survey will be conducted December 15 – 18, 2014.  

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