2011 Connecticut Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Results

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Highest Number of Ducks Counted since 1999

2011 Connecticut Midwinter Waterfowl Survey ResultsStaff from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted the annual Midwinter Waterfowl Survey on January 4 and 6, 2011. The total number of ducks observed during the survey – 22,926 – was the highest since 1999, and the puddle duck count was the highest since 1985. The survey is conducted throughout the Atlantic Flyway, and is used as an index of long-term wintering waterfowl trends. The Atlantic Flyway is a bird migration route that generally follows the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Appalachian Mountains. In Connecticut, the survey is conducted from a helicopter and a census is obtained from the coast, the three major river systems, and selected inland lakes and reservoirs.

Survey conditions for the 2011 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey were excellent. Prolonged cold weather in the weeks prior to the survey resulted in many of the inland lakes and ponds being frozen. When inland water areas freeze, waterfowl concentrate along the coast and on the major river systems. Clear skies and light winds on the day of the survey led to unlimited visibility and good flying conditions.

Counts of all puddle ducks were above their short-term (5-year) averages. The mallard count was the highest in over 15 years, as was the count for American black ducks. American wigeon and gadwall counts also were above their respective five-year averages. Following a recent trend, however, many puddle ducks were observed in urban sanctuaries, often associated with supplemental feeding activities.

“The Department discourages citizens from feeding waterfowl for a number of reasons, including increased risk of disease transmission and potential for poor nutrition” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEP Wildlife Division. The Department has published a brochure, “Do Not Feed Waterfowl,” that outlines the potential hazards of feeding waterfowl. It is available on the Department’s Web site at www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/wildlife/pdf_files/game/NoFeedWF.pdf.

The scaup count was well above that of 2010 and the highest since 1999. Despite a relatively high count this year, scaup wintering numbers in Connecticut continue to be lower than historical counts. The decline in the continental scaup population continues to be of concern for biologists nationwide. Habitat changes on the scaup’s breeding grounds may be a factor in the long-term decline of the population. Eiders were not observed in the survey, but the number of scoters observed was higher than in 2010. Mergansers were abundant and above the levels observed in 2010, but under the five-year average.

Atlantic brant numbers were higher than in 2010 and above the recent average. Canada goose counts were once again high for this survey.

 2011 Connecticut Midwinter Waterfowl Survey
Results for Major Species*

Species  2011    2010    5-year Avg.  
 Atlantic Brant                       1,600  1,000  1,300
 Black Duck  3,500   3,200  2,200
 Bufflehead    1,200  1,100  800
 Canada Goose  3,800  4,800  3,400
 Canvasback  100   0   100
 Mallard  2,600   2,500  1,400
 Merganser  1,100   900  1,200
 Mute Swan    700  700  800
 Long-tailed Duck  600   200  200
 Common Goldeneye  1,000  400  700
 Scaup   5,400  800   2,000
 * rounded to nearest hundred