Midwinter North Dakota Waterfowl Survey Reveals Record Numbers



The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January showed 279,000 birds, a record high for the number of ducks and geese wintering in the state.

Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist, said an estimated 90,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 70,500 were scattered on Lake Sakakawea, which was completely open east of the Van Hook Arm. After summarizing the numbers, a record 190,000 geese were tallied statewide.

“This year’s survey was highly abnormal, and numbers of waterfowl within the state were probably underestimated because of the open water and lack of snow statewide,” Szymanski said. “The lack of snow cover was especially important in keeping these birds around.”

A mild, dry fall with record-setting warm temperatures kept the birds here longer than usual, Szymanski said, with snow geese remaining in the southern half of the state until early December.

In addition to the record number of geese, mallards reached an all-time high as 88,000 were counted statewide, with 31,000 on Devils Lake.

Survey conditions were generally good, Szymanski said, with record-setting high temperatures in January bringing daytime highs of 15-30 degrees above normal.

“This year’s survey results are a dramatic turnaround from the last three severe winters when less than 36,000 total waterfowl were observed statewide each year,” Szymanski said.

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