Habitat Surveys

Wildlife biologist/pilot Phil Thorpe and observer Thom Lewis flying a survey route in Saskatchewan. Credit: Thomas E. Lewis, USFWS

Habitat conditions play a very important role in annual and long-term changes in duck populations. The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey conducted in May and early June provides one source of critical habitat information used by biologists.

In addition to counting ducks and geese during the May survey, aerial survey crews also count wetland basins or "ponds," and assess habitat conditions over the key breeding areas in North America.

Satellite imagery and other remotely sensed data offer new opportunities to monitor habitat conditions. For example, satellite data have been applied to evaluate snow and ice cover in the arctic as a predictor of goose production. Federal and State wildlife agencies will continue to evaluate opportunities to utilize remotely-sensed data to efficiently assess the condition of waterfowl habitats across North America.

Pilot side of Partenavia aircraft instrument panel, Credit: Steve Earsom, USFWS      Observer side of Partenavia aircraft instrument panel, Credit: Steve Earsom, USFWS

In 2010, the Service received nine new state-of-the-art turbine engine Kodiak float planes to replace some of the older, smaller planes in the survey fleet, increasing the overall efficiency of their misson.

Each year, the most current information about habitat and population surveys is reported in the Status of Waterfowl.

Kodiak float plane photo, Credit: David Pederson, USFWS