2015 Atlantic Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

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In January of each year, with assistance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Atlantic states from Maine to Florida conduct mid-winter waterfowl surveys of the Atlantic Flyway.

Results from state surveys are combined and used to help determine population trends of wintering waterfowl and their distribution. The mid-winter waterfowl survey is a nationwide effort to survey waterfowl in major winter concentration areas, and occurs in all 4 flyways.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Facts:

The survey counts waterfowl on open-water and coastal areas. Wooded habitats (beaver ponds and swamps) are not surveyed well.

The survey occurs only once per year in a relatively short time period.

Estimates can be inflated by icing which can force waterfowl out of small, isolated wetlands into larger water bodies.

2015 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Highlights:


During the course of the 2015 Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey, research teams counted more than 855,500 waterfowl. The total was slightly lower than the 905,000 birds observed during 2014, but higher than the five year average of 757,000.

Two of Maryland’s most iconic ducks were present in large numbers. The total for redhead ducks (32,200) was the highest since the mid-1970s. The canvasback count (64,200) was one of the highest since the mid-1960s. Large numbers of wintering Canada geese (504,700) were also counted in Maryland.

Biologists attribute this year’s count to the fact large areas of the Bay’s tributaries were ice covered during the survey period, concentrating waterfowl where they were more easily counted.

West Virginia

Fewer ducks and geese were observed during the 2015 West Virginia mid-winter waterfowl survey compared to 2014. DNR wildlife biologists and wildlife managers completed the survey Jan. 8 and 9. Observers counted 7,844 ducks and 6,390 geese during the survey.

Ducks were down 11 percent and geese declined four percent from the previous survey. Duck numbers remain 87 percent above the 10-year average, however, and goose numbers are 20 percent above their long-term average.

Canada geese, mallards and American black ducks were the most common species seen, with lesser numbers of snow geese, buffleheads, redheads, goldeneyes, American widgeon, ruddy, ring-necked, canvasbacks, scaup, wood ducks, common mergansers, and hooded mergansers.

North Carolina

The 2015 North Carolina mid-winter waterfowl survey was conducted from January 6th – January 22nd. During the aerial survey, all waterfowl were counted in 38 discrete geographic units.

The survey covered all major water bodies from approximately Mackay Island to the New River. Several inland lakes as well as a portion of the Yadkin/Pee Dee River system were also surveyed.

When compared to the 2014 survey, nearly all duck species were counted at lower levels. However, 2014 counts were very high due to extremely cold weather and icing experienced during the 2013-14 fall/winter period.

Most species were well above their long-term average. Notable observations included large numbers of redheads in the Core Sound area and increasing numbers of tundra swans in Northampton, Halifax and Edgecombe counties. Gadwall populations were 445% above the long-term average. Ducks that were below average included mallards, black ducks, and canvasbacks.

Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding private areas continues to be the core area for concentrations of dabbling ducks in North Carolina.