November 2013 aerial waterfowl survey is second-lowest on record

Low duck numbers across the board suggest migration is delayed, waterfowl study leader says


November 08, 2013 at 5:20 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The just-completed November aerial waterfowl survey indicates the second-lowest number of ducks in the state since the count began in 1969, and includes the lowest number of mallards ever recorded.
The just-completed November aerial waterfowl survey indicates the second-lowest number of ducks in the state since the count began in 1969, and includes the lowest number of mallards ever recorded.

Larry Reynolds’ concerns in a story last week about fewer numbers of ducks in the state were confirmed this week after he conducted an aerial survey over Louisiana’s coastal zone. 

The just-released November 2013 survey estimates count only 1.02 million ducks, about 30-percent lower than both last November and the five-year average of 1.44 million. 

It’s the second lowest total since the survey began in 1969, and it includes the lowest number of mallards ever on record.

“We’ve got no scaup and a thousand mallards. We’ve got low numbers of all species except blue-wings,” said Reynolds, the state’s waterfowl study leader. “We’re just late. Everything is late.”

The report indicates that two-thirds of the ducks in coastal Louisiana were counted in the southwest part of the state, where concentrations of grays were noted in the marsh south of the East Cove Unit of Cameron Prairie NWR and just west of Rockefeller Refuge. Additionally, large numbers of teal were counted in the marsh between White Lake and Pecan Island.

According to the report, surprisingly few ducks were seen around the Delacroix marshes and during flights over Atchafalaya Delta WMA despite good habitat conditions in both locations.

The largest group of ducks in southeast Louisiana was seen near Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the report states.

Despite the low numbers, Reynolds was encouraged by the habitat conditions he saw across the coastal zone, and suggested hunters go out and hunt. 

“We know the ducks are north of us, but find the good habitat and hunt. You can kill plenty of ducks, you just have to find ‘em,” he said. “Just because the number of ducks  in the area is low doesn’t mean you can’t have success. It just means you many have to work harder.”

The Mallard Migration Network, which can be viewed online here, is a Mississippi-Flyway based activity that tracks the mallard migration south in real time using the input of more than 100 spotters across the central United States.

Their current on-line map agrees with the aerial survey, and indicates the majority of mallards heading south have only made it as far as about Iowa, with the largest numbers of birds still remaining in Canada.

Reynolds is optimistic large numbers of birds will arrive in the next three to four weeks.

“The biggest change in our surveys is typically between the November and December survey,” he said. “I hope when I fly this survey in December we’re going to see normal numbers of birds, which would be twice as many as we saw in this one.”

The November 2013 aerial survey will be posted soon on the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Web site. Previous survey results can be viewed here






View other articles written Patrick Bonin