DNR monitors waterfowl populations from the sky

Annual survey counts ducks, geese and swans on southern Michigan waterways.
Bookmark and Share
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.
dnr logo

Statewide DNR News

March 28, 2017

Contact: Holly Vaughn, 313-396-6863 or Joe Robison, 734-379-9692

DNR monitors waterfowl populations from the sky 

aerial photo of group of waterfowl on lakeEarlier this year, Department of Natural Resources staff took to the sky in small aircraft to observe and count ducks, geese and swans on southern Michigan waterways. DNR Wildlife Division staff observed 148,521 ducks, 49,840 geese and 5,103 swans in 2017’s survey. 

In the 2016 survey, 157,028 ducks, 33,468 geese and 5,896 swans were observed. Goose observations increased in 2017, while duck observations were down about 5 percent and swan observations down 13 percent. 

Though duck observations were slightly down, biologists believe that duck populations in Michigan are stable. The 5-percent decline can be attributed to cold arctic blasts in late December and early January pushing birds southward, with some ducks bypassing Michigan altogether. 

“The ducks were concentrated this year, with the ice cover that we had early in the winter,” said Joe Robison, DNR Wildlife Division’s Southeast Region Field Operations manager. “We did not count as many ducks in 2017’s survey, but we did see large rafts of over 40,000 canvasbacks on the Detroit River. That is always a great sight.”

Since 1991, the state of Michigan has cooperated with other states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian provinces and the Canadian Wildlife Service to conduct aerial surveys of wintering ducks and geese. This survey is commonly referred to as the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey.

Population estimates from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are included in estimates of mid-continent waterfowl abundance and are needed for establishing annual waterfowl hunting season frameworks for the Mississippi, Central and Pacific flyways. The Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey has been especially important for evaluating waterfowl populations, monitoring winter migratory patterns and planning habitat management for these species.

Southeast Michigan, especially areas near western Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, is one of the most important areas in North America for migrating birds. Billions of birds migrate through this region each spring and fall. Many waterfowl species spend the winter on the open water of the lakes and rivers of southeast Michigan. 

/Editors’ note: An accompanying photo is available below for download. Suggested caption:

Department of Natural Resources biologists counted ducks, geese and swans while flying low over Michigan’s waterways as part of an annual effort to monitor waterfowl populations./

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

DNR facebook page DNR on Twitter DNR on YouTube DNR on Pinterest DNR on Instagram DNR email updates