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: 2016-01-06

Compiled by Frank Nelson
The fall forecast for 2015 estimated that the strong El Nino conditions in the Pacific might create above average temperatures and potentially wetter than normal conditions in Missouri. As the year came to a close these predictions still rang true. Temperatures in December were 7-10 degrees above average. During the last week of December a fourth major rain event caused rivers to swell once again and caused more than 200 roads to be closed due to flooding. Over 6 inches of rain covered the southern portion of the state, with certain locations receiving more than 10 inches over a three day period.

River levels along the Osage, Gasconade, Meramec, lower Missouri River east of Hermann, and Mississippi River reached their fourth and highest peak of the season. Multiple locations along these rivers were close to record levels. The Meramec and Gasconade hadnít seen flooding like this since 1982. In St. Louis, the Mississippi caused levee breaches and neared 1993 river levels. As these inputs converged downstream the Mississippi River did break the 1993 benchmarks and set new records at Cape Girardeau and Thebes. During this time, rivers elsewhere in north and central Missouri also saw a bump from the rain, but due to lower amounts of precipitation the rises were less than what was experienced earlier in the month.

On the backside of this last storm system of 2015 the first real winter weather was felt in Missouri. The northwest third of the state received snow between a half an inch to 3 inches deep on the 29th of December. Over the last 7 days minimum temperatures have been below freezing across the state and average temperatures have predominately ranged between the 30ís and 40ís. While open water remains in places, ice has begun to lock up and thicken on shallowly flooded wetlands and flooded fields in the northern parts of the state. The frigid 10 day forecast looks like it will be creating more ice across most of the state.

As has been the case through this whole season, waterfowl have taken advantage of floodwaters and pioneered newly flooded ground. During the last two weeks this trend appears to have continued to a degree. Some locations have seen their numbers fluctuate as birds use flooded habitats off publicly managed areas and then return once the sheetwater recedes a few days later. On the flip side, other locations, northwest Missouri in particular, have seen a continuous decline in waterfowl numbers over the last few weeks as it appears to be time for the birds to move on.

The five-year average total for publicly managed wetlands during the first week of January is 388,446 ducks. Since the beginning of December the statewide waterfowl totals have been running above average due to the unseasonably warm weather. Inclement weather and extremely high water conditions havenít made ideal circumstances to do waterfowl counts on wetland areas during the last couple of weeks. Several areas were not included this week because of flooding. Despite these challenges and the recent cold snap, the total number of ducks is nearly double the five-year average. This weekís total for most of the publicly managed wetland areas was 628,347 ducks. This is similar to the 2011 total of 651,121 ducks, which was another mild winter until the start of January.

It has definitely been a different and atypical year. The mild weather across the Midwest saw a slow build up and delayed peak in waterfowl numbers, nearly two weeks behind the norm. Other than the cold snap over Thanksgiving, the only factor keeping birds moving around was the unusual wet weather that kept pulsing water on and off of Missouriís floodplains through the season. Looking back at 2015 and careening our necks towards the 2016 season, you can know that no two seasons are ever exactly the same. Next year, no doubt, will be different.

The South Zone continues to be open until January 24th. Dark and Light Geese are open until January 31st, followed by the Light Goose Conservation Order which goes from February 1st to April 30th. In February and March you are encouraged to participate in public workshops across the state to discuss options for future duck season dates and zone boundaries. Please check your local regional office or managed wetland area for more details.

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 * 01/04/2016 10310 1350 Gadwalls,
5800 Mallards,
1800 Mixed dabblers,
60 Mixed divers,
25 Ring-Necked ducks,
75 Shovelers,
1200 Teal
100 0 3 Bald Eagles,
1000 Coots
Fountain Grove CA 01/04/2016 850 850 Mallards 700 0 400 White Fronted Geese
Grand Pass CA * 01/05/2016 140775 133737 Mallards,
5630 Mixed dabblers,
1408 Mixed divers
250 15000 262 Bald Eagles,
8 Unidentified Swans,
300 White Fronted Geese
Swan Lake NWR * 01/06/2016 14691 12275 Mallards,
125 Mixed dabblers,
491 Mixed divers,
1450 Ring-Necked ducks,
350 Teal
984 150 1165 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Northeast Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
BK Leach CA * 12/21/2015 18486 4585 Gadwalls,
12925 Mallards,
1 Mixed divers,
150 Pintails,
775 Shovelers,
50 Wigeon
0 0 175 White Fronted Geese
Clarence Cannon NWR * 12/21/2015 157342 17084 Gadwalls,
109746 Mallards,
18 Mixed dabblers,
79 Mixed divers,
20560 Pintails,
192 Ring-Necked ducks,
3216 Shovelers,
2436 Teal,
4011 Wigeon
259 36 60 Bald Eagles,
908 Coots,
78 White Fronted Geese
Columbia Bottom CA * 01/04/2016 2500 1000 Mallards,
1500 Mixed dabblers
0 0 1 Bald Eagles,
25 Trumpeter Swans
Marais Temps Clair CA * 12/21/2015 4960 200 Gadwalls,
4700 Mallards,
10 Shovelers,
50 Teal
0 0
Ted Shanks CA * 01/04/2016 95100 91800 Mallards,
3300 Mixed dabblers
100 0 55 Bald Eagles
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Northwest Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Bob Brown CA * 01/04/2016 3590 3550 Mallards,
40 Ring-Necked ducks
0 0 27 Bald Eagles,
15 Coots,
14 Unidentified Swans
Nodaway Valley CA * 01/04/2016 6950 6500 Mallards,
300 Mixed dabblers,
150 Mixed divers
9 0 23 Bald Eagles,
30 Coots
Squaw Creek NWR * 01/04/2016 12238 10 Gadwalls,
12205 Mallards,
8 Mixed divers,
10 Pintails,
5 Teal
77 22 400 Coots,
492 Trumpeter Swans,
145 White Fronted Geese
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Southeast Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Coon Island CA * 01/04/2016 15000 13500 Mallards,
1500 Mixed dabblers
0 4500 1000 White Fronted Geese
Duck Creek CA * 01/04/2016 12790 3250 Gadwalls,
5600 Mallards,
24 Mixed dabblers,
50 Mixed divers,
13 Pintails,
2075 Ring-Necked ducks,
1725 Shovelers,
46 Teal,
7 Wigeon
6 0 9 Bald Eagles,
975 White Fronted Geese
Little River CA * 01/04/2016 58 2 Gadwalls,
40 Mallards,
16 Mixed divers
0 0 125 Coots,
6 Great Blue Herons
Mingo NWR * 01/04/2016 87753 14488 Gadwalls,
56348 Mallards,
370 Mixed dabblers,
102 Mixed divers,
3565 Pintails,
7812 Ring-Necked ducks,
3960 Shovelers,
563 Teal,
545 Wigeon
630 0 34 Bald Eagles,
4500 Coots,
21 Great Blue Herons,
0 Trumpeter Swans
Otter Slough CA * 01/04/2016 18400 6000 Gadwalls,
6650 Mallards,
50 Mixed divers,
700 Pintails,
500 Ring-Necked ducks,
2200 Shovelers,
1700 Teal,
600 Wigeon
125 15000 5 Bald Eagles,
2620 Coots,
1275 White Fronted Geese
Ten Mile Pond CA * 01/04/2016 60000 51000 Mallards,
9000 Mixed dabblers
0 80000
Missouri Waterfowl and Habitat Survey
Southwest Region
Area Survey Date Ducks Species Composition Canada Geese Snow Geese Other
Four Rivers CA 01/05/2016 137836 129565 Mallards,
690 Mixed dabblers,
1378 Mixed divers,
690 Pintails,
5513 Teal
90 25000 10 Bald Eagles,
15 White Fronted Geese
Montrose CA * 01/04/2016 7125 3800 Mallards,
305 Mixed dabblers,
3020 Mixed divers
800 3200 4 Bald Eagles,
75 Pelicans,
60 White Fronted Geese
Schell-Osage CA * 12/14/2015 45000 40000 Mallards,
4000 Mixed dabblers,
1000 Mixed divers
400 5000 9 Bald Eagles,
3 Unidentified Swans
Settles Ford CA * 01/04/2016 2381 2371 Mallards,
8 Mixed divers,
1 Ring-Necked ducks,
1 Shovelers
490 0 6 Bald Eagles,
110 Coots,
7 Trumpeter Swans

* Designates Ground Count