Ducks flood into Bayou State for west zone season opener

Blue-winged teal, gadwalls most numerous, LDWF says.

More than 1.8 million ducks have poured into the state for the regular-season opener tomorrow, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.

The numbers were compiled during flights by LDWF biologists, and represent a significant increase over the past few years.

“The estimated 1.84 ducks on this survey is 13 percent higher than last November’s estimate of 1.62 million (ducks), (and) 20 percent higher than the most-recent five-year average of 1.52 million …,” the LDWF report shows.

Although that is good news for hunters, this number is still 8 percent lower than the long-term average of 2 million birds.

The report, written by LDWF’s Larry Reynolds, says grey ducks and blue-winged teal make up the vast majority of ducks.

An estimated 730,000 gadwall were counted during the Nov. 4-8 flights, while 451,000 bluewings were estimated.

The third-most-prevalent species was green-winged teal at 205,000 birds. That was followed by pintail (180,000) and shovelers (143,000).

Thirty thousand wigeon, 66,000 mottled ducks and 17,000 ringnecks also were counted

Mallards and scaup were tied with 9,000 of each species, and a mere 1,000 canvasbacks were tagged on the flights.

“Mallards and scaup, typically considered later-migrating species were down markedly from last November, but estimates for all other species were higher or about the same,” the LDWF report said.

In addition to the ducks, massive numbers of coot – 1.839 million – were in the state.

The southwest portion of the state held the lion’s share of birds, with 1.114 million ducks congregated there.

“The relative distribution of ducks in coastal Louisiana is similar to 2010, with about 65 percent of the ducks counted in Southwest Louisiana …,” the report said.

While ducks packed the region, there are concerns.

“In Southwest Louisiana, drought conditions were more obvious, but where there were water and ducks, there were often large numbers,” Reynolds wrote in the report. “Concentrations (of ducks) were noted in the marshes west of Sabine (National Wildlife Refuge), on Rockefeller Refuge and north of Intracoastal City.”

It seems that many field hunters could struggle because of the drought.

“Large groups of ducks were not encountered on transect lines in the agricultural areas north of the (southwestern) marsh, but at least one very large group was noted … west of Gueydan.”

Numbers for individual species in that region were:

• Mallards – 5,000
• Mottled ducks – 27,000
• Gadwall – 594,000
• Wigeon – 6,000
• Green-winged teal – 168,000
• Bluewings – 145,000
• Shovelers – 118,000
• Pintail – 39,000
• Scaup – 6,000
• Ringnecks – 6,000
• Canvasback – 0
• Coots – 833,000

However, Southeast Louisiana hunters should be happy with the opener.

“The estimate in Southeast Louisiana is the highest for the last five years, and is likely representative of better water levels in the marshes in that region compared to drier regions farther west,” Reynolds wrote in the report. “Large concentrations of ducks were seen near the mouth of the Mississippi River and north of Lake Salvador in the southeast region survey.”

Species numbers found in Southeast Louisiana were:

• Mallards – 3,000
• Mottled – 39,000
• Gadwall – 126,000
• Wigeon – 23,000
• Greenwings – 31,000
• Bluewings – 283,000
• Shovelers – 23,000
• Pintail – 64,000
• Scaup – 2,000
• Ringnecks – 2,000
• Canvasbacks – 0

The Catahoula Lake region held only 131,000 ducks, which is a substantial reduction from last year’s estimate of 209,000 birds.
“Despite small increases in diving ducks at Catahoula Lake, all other species declined markedly except for blue-winged teal,” the report reveals. “Declines in pintail (down 29,000), mallards (down 24,000), gadwalls (down 24,000) and shovelers (down 23,000) account for the difference from 2010.”

Totals by species in and around Catahoula Lake were:

• Mallards – 1,000
• Mottled ducks – less than 1,000
• Gadwall – 10,000
• Wigeon – 1,000
• Greenwings – 6,000
• Bluewings – 23,000
• Shovelers – 2,000
• Pintail – 77,000
• Scaup – 1,000
• Ringnecks – 9,000
• Canvasbacks – 1,000

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About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.