"The estimate is 60 percent higher than the 1.34 million estimated in November, (and) is similar to the five-year average (2.29 million) and is about 25 percent lower than the long-term average (2.90 million)," the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries report shows. "Except for blue-winged teal, which declined from a record November high of 598,000 to 146,000 this month, all species increased markedly from November."
The estimates were released yesterday by the agency after its monthly waterfowl survey was completed Dec. 10-18. Completion was delayed because of the recent inclement weather.
The recent rainfalls have provided a plethora of options for birds arriving in the state, biologists noted.
"Continued rainfall in November and early December following record precipitation in October has maintained or even increased flooded habitat across most of Louisiana," the report read. "Backwaters of riverine systems, forested wetlands and swamps are flooded in most locations.
"Agricultural fields and flooded pastures in Southwest and Northwest Louisiana are providing above-average shallow-flooded habitat, and flooding in similar habitats in Central and Northeast Louisiana have increased from both rainfall and additional managed acreage flooded since the November survey.
While that's great news to those hunting ag fields and backwaters, coastal hunters might not find it as positive.
"(W)ater levels in the coastal marshes are very high, probably too high to provide optimum conditions for feeding waterfowl," according to the survey.
In all, 73 percent of the birds (1.536 million) were located in Southwest Louisiana. Another 555,000 were located in the southeast, and the remaining 69,000 ducks were fond in the Catahoula Lake region.
"The distribution of ducks in coastal Louisiana continues to be strongly skewed toward the west ," according to the report. "However, that was less than the 87% in November."
Bluewing numbers fell in the southwestern region, while grey duck numbers in Southeast Louisiana rose, the biologists reported.
"(B)ut the largest numbers (of ducks) continue to come from southwest Louisiana where very large amounts of shallow-flooded agricultural habitats are attracting concentrations of ducks," the report reads.
The most-numerous ducks were, by far, gadwall. Biologists estimated there were a total of 656,000 grey ducks in the state during the aerial surveys. However, 56 ¼ percent of those birds (369,000) were located in the Southwest, with the other 287,000 moving into the southeast. There were less than 1,000 gadwall on Catahoula Lake.
Next up in terms of numbers were greenwings, with a total of 404,000. Again, the majority of the ducks (352,000 or more than 87 percent) were stacked into Southwest Louisiana, while the rest of these teal were in Southeast Louisiana.
Pintail ranked third in terms of total numbers, with 308,000 pins making the move into the state. Of those, only 9,000 were found in Southeast Louisiana and 3,000 were counted at Catahoula Lake. The other 296,000 (96 pecent of the total) were in the southwest portion of our state.
Other species and numbers by region were:
• 105,000 (Southwest)
• 3,000 (Southeast)
• 1,000 (Catahoula Lake)
• 116,000 (Southwest)
• 30,000 (Southeast)
• 135,000 (Southwest)
• 6,000 (Southeast)
• 50,000 (Southwest)
• 53,000 (Southeast)
• 18,000 (Southwest)
• 54,000 (Southeast)
• 2,000 (Catahoula Lake)
• 72,000 (Southwest)
• 51,000 (Southeast)
• 24,000 (Catahoula Lake)
• 1,000 (Southwest)
• 1,000 (Southeast)
• 39,000 (Catahoula Lake)
Surveys in Northwest Louisiana counted another 14,000 ducks, "primarily on the locks, lakes, oxbows, and fields along the Red River upper Toledo Bend reservoir," according to the report.
"This is substantially more than the 5,250 counted during an abbreviated survey in November, but less than the 23,000 counted in 2005, the last time a survey of this area was completed in December," the aerial survey reports. "Over half of the birds seen on this survey were mallards, and most of those were counted on managed shallow impoundments near Loggy Bayou.
"Gadwalls and ring-necked ducks made up most of the remaining ducks."
Biologists also counted 179,000 ducks and 148,000 geese in Northeast Louisiana, with pintails, mallards and gadwalls being most numerous around Bonita, Mer Rouge, north of Bunkie, and at Saline and Delta Farms east of Catahoula Lake.
"That is a 45-percent increase in the number of ducks and three times the number of geese seen in November," biologists reported. "This is the first time since 2005, when 120,000 ducks and 238,000 geese were counted, that a Northeast Louisiana survey was completed in December, so no recent comparisons statements can be made."