Aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) counted about 812,600 waterfowl while conducting the 2017 Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey.
The total was higher than the 663,000 birds observed during 2016 and similar to the five-year average of 795,240.
Each winter, the teams make visual estimates of the ducks, geese and swans along the state’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast.
Biologists attribute high waterfowl numbers to weather conditions.
“An early December cold snap throughout the East likely moved large numbers of waterfowl, diving ducks in particular, south to Maryland waters,” said Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto.
Overall, dabbling ducks were similar (87,900) to last winter (69,800). Diving duck numbers (283,600) were higher when compared to last winter (246,000). Survey teams also observed more scaup (138,800) and canvasbacks (75,100) in 2017 compared to counts of 91,800 and 19,800 respectively last year.
The Canada Goose count (394,700) was higher than 2016 (293,800) but below the five year average.
The Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has been conducted annually since the early 1950s. The Maryland survey results (see below) are ultimately pooled to provide a measure of the distributional changes and long-term trends of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway.
source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources