December aerial survey of 3.6 million ducks highest since 1999

Winter weather in flyway pushing birds into Louisiana, Reynolds says

Below-freezing temperatures and snowfall in the upper-Midwest states appears to be benefitting Louisiana duck hunters, as the state’s annual December aerial waterfowl survey completed last week revealed 3.61 million ducks in the state — the highest estimate since 1999.

Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said big increases in birds that typically arrive later was partially responsible for the total, which is up 18 percent from the November survey, and is 29 percent higher than the long-term December average of 2.79 million birds.

Big increases in mallards (11,000 to 190,000) and canvasbacks (2,000 to 300,000) were noted, with the number of greenheads in the state estimated to be the highest since 2005.

The number of gray ducks decreased to 1,008,000 from 1,255,000 in November, but remains above the long-term average of 906,000 gadwalls.

Ducks were fairly evenly distributed between Southeast and Southwest Louisiana, with more diving ducks in the Southeast and more dabblers in the Southwest.

Major concentrations of ring-necked ducks and coots were noted in the upper-Terrebonne marshes, and marshes south and east of Venice held large numbers of grays, greenwings, pintails, canvasbacks and ringnecks, the report states.

At Catahoula Lake, where the water level is at least a foot higher than management targets because of recent rainfall and runoff, 122,000 birds were estimated, which is below the most recent 10-year average of 154,000.

Increases were also noted in North Louisiana, with counts in the Northwest 35 percent higher than the December average, and Northeast Louisiana’s estimate of 594,000 ducks is the highest since 2005.

Additionally, the highest number of scaup ever recorded on Lake Borgne — 93,500 — was noted in the report.

Overall habitat conditions were average in the marsh, Reynolds said, with submerged aquatic vegetation evident in most areas.