On May 5th, an aerial survey crew in the Eastern Dakotas had the honor of kicking off the 60th annual Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, flying initial transects between Winner and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While the initial observations point to very dry wetland conditions and a scarcity of ducks in that region, it remains to be seen what pilots and and ground crews in the ten other survey areas across Canada and the northern United States will find. What is certain is that their daily reports will be full of fascinating insights and anecdotes, captivating imagery, and important clues as to what to expect as regulations are set in late summer for the fall hunting season.
A cooperative effort of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and state, provincial, and tribal agencies, this survey currently covers more than 2.1 million square miles of the northern United States and Canada, and includes most of the primary duck nesting areas in North America.
Since 1935, pilot-biologists have been flying the winter skies to count birds. Known as the Mid-winter Survey, this coordinated, federal-state survey of wintering waterfowl provides information about species distribution and abundance. For some species, particularly those that breed in inaccessible regions of the arctic, the Mid-winter Survey provides the primary annual index to species abundance and is used to guide the establishment of hunting regulations.
Brad Bortner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division Chief of Migratory Bird Management is in Saskatchewan, Canada with several of the pilot biologists you'll recognize from their contributions to our flight logs - Mark Koneff, Phil Thorpe and Walt Rhodes - and others from the Service, to band ducks for the annual waterfowl banding project. Banding ducks is part of the effort to continue gathering knowledge for better management of waterfowl, providing information on population estimates, migration patterns, life span, survivability, productivity, and disease prevalence. The Division of Migratory Bird Management undertakes a number of surveys in conjunction with the USFWS Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and Provincial wildlife-management agencies.
Using the Bands Across America search tools found on this site, you can query and map waterfowl banding data as recent as this past spring all the way back to 1914.
Your search of more than 3.6 million banding records can be narrowed or expanded using multiple criteria to easily see banding and recovery locations. All results are plotted on a scalable map, offering critical information for waterfowl biologists monitoring populations across the continent.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed liberal hunting season lengths and bag limits for the upcoming 2014-2015 late waterfowl seasons. Duck hunting season lengths of 60 days were proposed for the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, with 74 days for the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas) and 107 days for the Pacific Flyway.
States will select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks that establish the earliest beginning and latest ending dates and the maximum season length and bag limits.
The latest Migratory Bird Hunting Activity and Harvest Report has been released, reporting that over 15.7 million ducks were harvested in the United States in 2012, with a decrease to 13.7 million ducks harvested in 2013. The number of harvested geese was nearly 3.2 million nationally in 2012, increasing somewhat to over 3.3 million geese in 2013.
In addition to downloading the full report, you can also generate custom harvest trends reports to quickly and easily view the information that is important to you. With these custom reports, you can view harvest trends for a specific species in a specific state; or you can view results for all ducks or all geese on a national level or within a selected flyway; or you can see the total of all ducks and geese at the national level. Results from these custom reports are presented in line graph format to easily illustrate harvest trends from 1961 through 2012. To view harvest activity reports for previous years, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management website.