Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey

Coordinated statewide surveys of Conservation Area wetlands and National Wildlife Refuges are conducted approximately every other week during the waterfowl season. They are normally conducted on Mondays, weather permitting, and reported on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Comments of: 2016-11-30

Compiled by Frank Nelson, amended 12/1
The progression of this year's waterfowl migration through Missouri has been rather slow. Through October and much of November conditions have been abnormally mild in Missouri and across the upper Midwest. Currently much of Missouri is abnormally dry, with moderate to severe drought conditions emerging in southeast Missouri. The news gets worse as you head south in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. States like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are seeing the drought deepen and their severe conditions are turning extreme in some locations. The mild conditions haven't put a strain on the ducks energetically so they haven't had to move around much. This has made for some tough hunting on multiple areas across the state.

One of the good things about being behind, is there is always a chance to catch up. Despite record breaking high temperatures occurring between November 15-18th, the mercury finally dipped across much of the Midwest bringing strong winds and morning lows down in the twenties. Also during this event, snow fell across South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and northwest corner of Iowa between November 18th-20th. This front positively affected duck abundance in Missouri by doubling the total number of ducks observed on publicly managed wetlands in the state and marking the first significant number of snow geese on multiple areas. However, the influx and timing of birds was variable. A few managers noticed flight birds on the 18th and 19th, while others noticed a more gradual increase throughout the week. The amount of increase also varied across the state and a few locations in southeast Missouri didn't really notice a bump at all.

When you look at the numbers prior to Thanksgiving, we saw a dramatic increase in the abundance of mallards. Their percentage climbed from 38\% to 53\% percent of the total, with their numbers increasing by 2.5 times in one week. This caused the overall percentages of other species to dip despite their numbers also increasing. For example, after seeing pintail numbers start to decline the week before, their numbers rebounded and also increased despite the overall percentage slipping from 15\% to 14\%. The number of green-winged teal also increased across the state, but their percentage declined from 19\% to 16\% because of the overshadowing effect of the total number of mallards. Although it may be hard to tell, with time the progression of waterfowl migration through Missouri has improved.

In the past week, temperatures have moderated again with highs bumping up into the 50's and 60's across the state and lows in the 40's and high 30's. A couple of managers mentioned noticing a small push of birds on the 21st and 22nd, while a couple of others noted the 27th and 28th. Overall the total has increased from 938,121 and tipped over the million bird mark to 1,078,474 ducks across publicly managed wetland areas. With this increase, there has been some turnover in species composition. Pintail and gadwall numbers and percentages have dropped this week, while mallards have continued to increase and now make up 64\% of the birds present. Green-winged teal numbers are close to last week's count and make up the second most abundant species at 13\%.

Over the last 5 years in Missouri, we have come to expect a new and unprecedented normal. The all time high breeding duck populations have been reflected in new high numbers of ducks visiting Missouri wetlands during fall migration. During the last five years, between 2011-2015, the new 5 year average for the end of November has now risen to 1,077,770 total ducks. While it might not feel like an average year, our current total reflects the 5 year average. The 2011 total was the lowest in this window, being 976,721 ducks, which is slightly under this week's total. At that point in time, it was a new benchmark because if you looked at the 5 year average from 2006-2010, the typical number at the end of November was 736,549 ducks, a substantially lower number. All this is to say, much like the timing of migration is a moving target from year to year, so are our expectations from season to season.

A low pressure system has been bringing snow to the upper Midwest the last couple of days and temperatures have fallen at least ten degrees across Missouri today, November 30th, and will remain colder through the close of the week. With the bump in birds over the last two weeks and potential freezing temperatures this could mean a couple things. Hunting may improve as birds must seek out food to cover the increasing energetic costs of staying warm. Additionally, we may be nearing the peak of migration. Realizing trends only matter when looking at the past, shallow water habitats often freeze up by the second week of December and have typically marked the decline of migration. An eye to the skies and time will tell what will happen this year.

All three zones are now open. Good luck, be safe, and have fun out there.

More information about habitat conditions and hunting prospects:

Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Northcentral Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Eagle Bluffs CA * 11/28/2016 20340 4650 Gadwalls,
5945 Mallards,
2250 Mixed dabblers,
500 Pintails,
1145 Shovelers,
5850 Teal
0 0 2 Bald Eagles,
678 Coots,
10 Great Blue Herons
Fountain Grove CA * 11/28/2016 68050 2000 Gadwalls,
53000 Mallards,
250 Mixed dabblers,
600 Mixed divers,
500 Pintails,
1000 Ring-Necked ducks,
1500 Shovelers,
9000 Teal,
200 Wigeon
1000 5000 14 Bald Eagles,
600 Coots,
10 Unidentified Swans,
4000 White Fronted Geese
Grand Pass CA * 11/28/2016 82000 900 Gadwalls,
52915 Mallards,
110 Mixed dabblers,
250 Mixed divers,
3690 Pintails,
350 Ring-Necked ducks,
1640 Shovelers,
21320 Teal,
825 Wigeon
0 0
Swan Lake NWR * 11/29/2016 101923 890 Gadwalls,
59510 Mallards,
3090 Mixed dabblers,
238 Mixed divers,
25000 Pintails,
5150 Ring-Necked ducks,
900 Shovelers,
6895 Teal,
250 Wigeon
56 4400 26 Bald Eagles,
1525 Coots,
4 Great Blue Herons,
7 Trumpeter Swans,
500 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Northeast Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
BK Leach CA * 11/28/2016 25645 22075 Mallards,
3570 Mixed dabblers
0 0
Clarence Cannon NWR * 11/28/2016 119248 2368 Gadwalls,
78081 Mallards,
68 Mixed dabblers,
10 Mixed divers,
32289 Pintails,
428 Ring-Necked ducks,
4319 Teal,
1685 Wigeon
0 0
Columbia Bottom CA * 11/28/2016 5200 4000 Mallards,
700 Mixed dabblers,
500 Teal
10 0 1 Bald Eagles,
50 Coots,
56 Trumpeter Swans
Marais Temps Clair CA * 11/28/2016 8715 150 Gadwalls,
6000 Mallards,
3 Mixed dabblers,
2 Mixed divers,
2500 Pintails,
20 Shovelers,
40 Teal
25 30 3 Bald Eagles
Ted Shanks CA * 11/28/2016 114323 6500 Gadwalls,
74753 Mallards,
970 Mixed dabblers,
100 Mixed divers,
4000 Pintails,
3000 Shovelers,
25000 Teal
109 0 17 Bald Eagles,
8000 Coots
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Northwest Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Bob Brown CA * 11/28/2016 38600 3900 Gadwalls,
19900 Mallards,
35 Mixed dabblers,
10 Mixed divers,
7900 Pintails,
55 Ring-Necked ducks,
350 Shovelers,
5700 Teal,
750 Wigeon
0 3 35 Bald Eagles,
675 Coots,
5 Great Blue Herons,
1 Unidentified Swans
Nodaway Valley CA * 11/28/2016 12320 1750 Gadwalls,
3900 Mallards,
170 Mixed dabblers,
3200 Pintails,
3300 Teal
37 0 265 Coots
Squaw Creek NWR * 11/30/2016 101567 4571 Gadwalls,
52601 Mallards,
4 Mixed dabblers,
186 Mixed divers,
24075 Pintails,
400 Ring-Necked ducks,
2360 Shovelers,
17325 Teal,
45 Wigeon
572 101330 2057 Coots,
374 Trumpeter Swans,
2 Tundra Swans,
697 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Southeast Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Coon Island CA * 11/28/2016 367 50 Gadwalls,
100 Mallards,
2 Mixed dabblers,
15 Ring-Necked ducks,
200 Teal
0 0
Duck Creek CA * 11/28/2016 12814 4210 Gadwalls,
1304 Mallards,
24 Mixed dabblers,
31 Mixed divers,
4650 Ring-Necked ducks,
1525 Shovelers,
1070 Teal
24 47 4 Bald Eagles,
21 White Fronted Geese
Little River CA * 11/14/2016 2025 350 Gadwalls,
300 Mallards,
700 Mixed divers,
75 Pintails,
450 Shovelers,
150 Teal
0 0 95 Coots
Mingo NWR * 11/28/2016 67789 12606 Gadwalls,
43305 Mallards,
650 Mixed dabblers,
74 Mixed divers,
5670 Pintails,
686 Ring-Necked ducks,
3636 Shovelers,
803 Teal,
359 Wigeon
358 0 19 Bald Eagles,
5313 Coots,
77 White Fronted Geese
Otter Slough CA * 11/28/2016 55400 3000 Gadwalls,
36200 Mallards,
2000 Mixed divers,
3500 Pintails,
1500 Shovelers,
9000 Teal,
200 Wigeon
0 560 500 Coots,
300 White Fronted Geese
Ten Mile Pond CA * 11/28/2016 83055 66450 Mallards,
10000 Mixed dabblers,
1500 Pintails,
5 Ring-Necked ducks,
100 Shovelers,
5000 Teal
0 14200 3 Bald Eagles,
50 Coots,
3 Great Blue Herons,
14900 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Southwest Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Four Rivers CA * 11/28/2016 50196 1770 Gadwalls,
34460 Mallards,
3279 Mixed dabblers,
5 Mixed divers,
1612 Pintails,
40 Shovelers,
9030 Teal
8 2 5 Bald Eagles,
280 Coots,
4 Great Blue Herons,
5 Great Egrets,
18 Pelicans,
110 White Fronted Geese
Montrose CA * 11/28/2016 29872 920 Gadwalls,
26800 Mallards,
52 Mixed dabblers,
500 Mixed divers,
100 Pintails,
150 Ring-Necked ducks,
300 Shovelers,
750 Teal,
300 Wigeon
0 0 3 Bald Eagles,
370 Coots,
121 Pelicans,
1 White Fronted Geese
Schell-Osage CA * 11/29/2016 49225 1000 Gadwalls,
39000 Mallards,
75 Mixed divers,
3000 Pintails,
100 Ring-Necked ducks,
800 Shovelers,
5000 Teal,
250 Wigeon
375 700 8 Bald Eagles
Settles Ford CA * 11/28/2016 28903 400 Gadwalls,
12000 Mallards,
3 Mixed divers,
700 Pintails,
250 Ring-Necked ducks,
500 Shovelers,
15000 Teal,
50 Wigeon
0 0 8 Bald Eagles,
350 Coots

* Designates Ground Count