For the first time since 1995, the number of ducks counted in the state during November’s annual aerial waterfowl survey exceeded 3 million birds, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The estimate of 3.13 million ducks is more than three times higher than last November’s count of 1.02 million, and over twice the most-recent 5-year average of 1.36 million birds.

According to a press release from Larry Reynolds, the state’s waterfowl study leader, despite the big numbers in the survey, only four species exceeded their respective long-term averages for November: grays, pintail, scaup and ring-necked ducks.

And unlike in recent years, the distribution of ducks was slightly skewed to Southeast Louisiana, where 54 percent of the coastal ducks were counted.

A very large concentration of primarily ring-necked ducks was seen in the freshwater marsh of east-central Terrebonne Parish, and large numbers of mostly pintails and grays were counted in the marshes east of Venice.

In Southwest Louisiana, concentrations of ducks were seen north of Johnson’s Bayou, on the East Cove Unit of Cameron Prairie NWR and between Little Pecan and Grand Lake.  Most ducks in Southwest Louisiana were seen in marsh habitats with surprisingly few noted in the agricultural habitats at the north end of transect lines, the release states.

The 144,000 ducks counted at Catahoula Lake on this survey was lower than the 154,000 seen last November, despite the apparent earlier migration and far more ducks estimated in coastal habitats this year.  Inopportune rainfall and impeded drainage of runoff from shoaling in some areas of the lake created difficulty in maintaining low water levels during the drawdown period.  Consequently, there was poorer moist-soil plant production and reduced foraging habitat for migrating and wintering ducks, according to the release. 

For a look at the complete report, click here