Annual Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey Completed

Annual Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey Completed

Pintail Ducks
Pintail Ducks
Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Maine – -( Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife conducted its annual mid-winter waterfowl survey early in January 2010 and recorded numbers identical to or lower than 10-year-average figures.

The mid-winter waterfowl survey is conducted at the same time each winter in every state in the Atlantic Flyway. MDIFW wildlife biologists Brad Allen and Kelsey Sullivan and U.S. Geological Survey biologist Dan McAuley flew with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot John Bidwell for nearly 40 hours to conduct the low-level survey between January 4 and January 16.

This year, the team counted slightly more than 56,000 ducks and geese, a figure significantly lower than the latest 10-year average count of 69,000.

According to Brad Allen, leader of MDIFW’s bird group, this year’s count likely was low because of the relatively mild, ice-free coastal conditions encountered during the survey. In years when the survey is preceded by cold, harsh weather conditions, waterfowl become concentrated along the coast and are more likely to be counted. In years when the weather is mild, waterfowl are either along the coast or are dispersed in freshwater sites near the coast that remain ice free. These inland areas are not searched by the survey team.

Despite the mild conditions, a relatively good number of black ducks were recorded at 16,388 birds. This figure is nearly identical to the latest 10-year average for this species.

The most disappointing numbers recorded this year were for the sea ducks, according to Allen. Fewer than 1,000 scoters were encountered during the survey. Long-tailed duck numbers also were low at 1,253. Common eider numbers were the lowest ever recorded during mid-winter waterfowl survey flights. The survey team tallied fewer than 15,000 eiders, well below the latest 10-year average of 26,500 for this species.

Other numbers recorded for waterfowl in Maine in early January 2010 were as follows:

  • Mallards: 2,778
  • Scaup: 232
  • Goldeneyes: 7,549
  • Buffleheads: 6,561
  • Mergansers: 2,613
  • Ruddy ducks: 107
  • Harlequin ducks: 24
  • Canada geese: 3,286

While Maine’s numbers were relatively low this year, the overall status of winter populations cannot be determined until Maine’s data are pooled with the other state’s numbers from Maine to Florida. Collectively, these data provide a relative index to the abundance of all waterfowl species and their distribution within the flyway.