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: 2020-01-15

Compiled by Frank Nelson
The last couple of weeks have been a microcosm of the entire 2019-20 waterfowl season in terms of weather. We've seen warm and dry weather and also experienced cold with scattered bouts of precipitation. September and December were both much warmer than normal, with lower than average precipitation. October and November went the other direction and were colder than normal. Out of the two chillier months, October was wetter than average and included early snowfall along with the rain.

Temperature swings and batches of wet to dry weather have continued in the beginning of 2020. Last week ended with balmy temperatures in the high 50's and low 60's across Missouri, followed by a wintery cold front. On the 12th the highs were in the teens and twenties across the north and western part of the state. One to four inches of precipitation fell on the 11th followed by a wintery mix of ice and snow. The northern part of the state received 1-4 inches of snow. Over the last few days temperatures have moderated again reaching back into the 60's across southern Missouri. Another cold front will be passing through in the next 48 hours bringing snow and ice across the Midwest and causing temperatures to dip back down below normal over the next 6-10 days.

Depending upon where you are in the state the weather and hunting pressure has influenced where ducks are and their abundance. Even with the North and Middle Zones being closed, the freezing conditions have led to a decline of waterfowl on some shallowly flooded wetlands as they have shifted to the river and other deeper open water bodies. Other locations have gained birds. In between cold fronts, strong southerly winds have noticeably brought back pintail to various areas across the state. This week's survey shows this species climbed back to account for 13 percent of the ducks in the state, while mallards still hold on to 72 percent. Other public managed wetlands in Missouri haven't seen a big change in their waterfowl abundance over the last two to three weeks even though rain and rising river levels have provided new sheetwater. That being said, there are pockets of ducks using some of the new floodplain habitat, but this is typically in locations that are hard to access or haven't been recently hunted.

Dabbling ducks aren't the only species that were noticeable on this last survey of the year. Larger waterfowl species including Trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and Snow geese reached a season high this week. White-fronted geese didn't stick to this trend and remained similar in abundance to what they had been reported over the last few weeks. It is worth noting that along with the South Zone being open for ducks till the end of the month, geese may be hunted to February 6th. Shooting swans is prohibited, but they are majestic birds to observe and see in flight.

The statewide total is currently 446,779 ducks, which is just above the 5-year average, 393,858, for the second week of January. Each fall as waterfowl migrate through Missouri the timing and abundance of birds takes a different shape. Some years you have a steep peak followed by a deep decline. Other years you may have a gradual build-up of ducks that tappers towards the end of the season. Although it isn't often, from time to time we experience years like this where we have an initial build up, but then the numbers of ducks stay fairly flat throughout the season. It is what we saw in 1993, which interesting enough, was another year that we experienced widespread flooding across our Missouri and Mississippi River floodplains. This annual variation is both exciting and at times disappointing. Years like this underscore the importance and interplay between bird movements weather, habitat, and hunting pressure and an opportunity to acknowledge the complexity and part we play in the natural world.

Thanks for tuning in, caring about our natural resources, and participating in the tradition of Missouri waterfowl hunting. Best of luck for those still hunting in the south zone or chasing geese across the state. Remember, you are invited to a series of public workshops will be conducted around the state in January, February, and March to gather hunter input about future duck season dates and zone boundary locations for the 2021-2025 seasons. Until next fall, take care.

More information about habitat conditions and hunting prospects:

Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Middle Zone
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Columbia Bottom CA * 01/13/2020 195 115 Mixed dabblers,
80 Pintails
152 0 1 Bald Eagles,
4 Trumpeter Swans,
30 White Fronted Geese
Duck Creek CA * 01/13/2020 6037 1590 Gadwalls,
2005 Mallards,
0 Mixed dabblers,
72 Mixed divers,
0 Mixed ducks,
0 Pintails,
1955 Ring-Necked ducks,
415 Shovelers,
0 Teal,
0 Wigeon
40 0 3 Bald Eagles,
36 Coots,
6 Great Blue Herons,
0 Great Egrets,
0 Pelicans,
0 Trumpeter Swans,
0 Tundra Swans,
0 Unidentified Swans,
1520 White Fronted Geese
Eagle Bluffs CA * 01/13/2020 1040 50 Gadwalls,
800 Mallards,
40 Pintails,
50 Shovelers,
100 Teal
80 0 1 Bald Eagles,
10 Great Blue Herons,
2 Great Egrets
Four Rivers CA * 01/06/2020 8200 8036 Mallards,
82 Mixed dabblers,
82 Mixed divers
90 0 150 Pelicans
Grand Pass CA * 01/13/2020 3280 80 Gadwalls,
3100 Mallards,
100 Teal
50 0 10 Bald Eagles,
100 White Fronted Geese
Marais Temps Clair CA * 01/14/2020 571 20 Gadwalls,
200 Mallards,
1 Ring-Necked ducks,
350 Shovelers
20 0 5 Great Blue Herons,
3 Great Egrets,
1 Trumpeter Swans
Mingo NWR * 01/13/2020 43949 4820 Gadwalls,
31885 Mallards,
691 Mixed dabblers,
122 Mixed divers,
1237 Pintails,
1856 Ring-Necked ducks,
1935 Shovelers,
1266 Teal,
137 Wigeon
1156 0 49 Bald Eagles,
22 Great Blue Herons,
110 Trumpeter Swans
Montrose CA * 01/13/2020 2430 1450 Mallards,
750 Mixed dabblers,
30 Mixed divers,
200 Mixed ducks
350 600 6 Bald Eagles,
2 Coots,
6 Great Blue Herons,
100 White Fronted Geese
Otter Slough CA * 01/13/2020 30073 8408 Gadwalls,
6350 Mallards,
10 Mixed dabblers,
200 Mixed divers,
1850 Pintails,
2000 Ring-Necked ducks,
5230 Shovelers,
5525 Teal,
500 Wigeon
20 0 750 Coots
Settles Ford CA * 01/13/2020 2900 2200 Mallards,
200 Mixed dabblers,
50 Mixed divers,
450 Pintails
0 100 3 Bald Eagles,
2 Coots
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
North Zone
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
BK Leach CA * 01/13/2020 21150 210 Gadwalls,
10500 Mallards,
3800 Mixed dabblers,
100 Mixed divers,
6300 Pintails,
240 Shovelers
0 0 1 Bald Eagles,
100 Pelicans
Bob Brown CA * 01/14/2020 35 35 Mallards 0 70 5 Bald Eagles
Clarence Cannon NWR * 01/07/2020 7180 991 Gadwalls,
3818 Mallards,
1155 Pintails,
246 Shovelers,
970 Teal
586 0 15 Bald Eagles,
31 Trumpeter Swans,
1850 White Fronted Geese
Fountain Grove CA * 01/06/2020 87000 870 Gadwalls,
82650 Mallards,
870 Pintails,
2610 Teal
500 45000 55 Bald Eagles,
25 Trumpeter Swans,
7000 White Fronted Geese
Loess Bluffs NWR * 01/13/2020 5930 2 Gadwalls,
5823 Mallards,
1 Mixed divers,
2 Ring-Necked ducks,
102 Shovelers
521 14607 41 Coots,
1402 Trumpeter Swans,
4 Tundra Swans,
164 White Fronted Geese
Nodaway Valley CA * 01/07/2020 3400 3400 Mallards 1260 0 6 Bald Eagles,
39 Trumpeter Swans,
775 White Fronted Geese
Swan Lake NWR * 01/14/2020 52340 50555 Mallards,
1035 Mixed divers,
250 Pintails,
500 Ring-Necked ducks
2760 69000 48 Bald Eagles,
81 Coots,
1 Great Blue Herons,
1412 Trumpeter Swans,
850 White Fronted Geese
Ted Shanks CA * 01/13/2020 120000 8400 Gadwalls,
72000 Mallards,
3600 Mixed dabblers,
36000 Pintails
400 0 30 Bald Eagles,
125 Trumpeter Swans,
7500 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
South Zone
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Coon Island CA * 01/14/2020 0 0 0
Little River CA * 01/13/2020 4030 500 Mallards,
430 Mixed divers,
3000 Shovelers,
100 Teal
0 0
Ten Mile Pond CA * 01/13/2020 42412 8200 Gadwalls,
18500 Mallards,
7500 Pintails,
4500 Shovelers,
3412 Teal,
300 Wigeon
0 40000 5 Bald Eagles,
5000 White Fronted Geese

* Designates Ground Count