Record numbers of ducks are to the north of us, and duck hunters may see a lot of birds this year based on population estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Also, the limit on scaup has increased from two to four because of those estimates.
It was a banner year for breeding duck surveys, with a total estimate of 48.6 million breeding ducks. That’s up 7 percent from great surveys last year, and it’s also an all-time record high.
Mallard estimates are back above 10 million for the first time since 1999. Gadwall are up 10 percent over last year and 96 percent above the historic average. Northern pintail and American wigeon were the only two species counted below their historic average.
There are tons of adult birds to the north of us, and that should make for a good season, but Greg Balkcom, WRD’s state waterfowl biologist, said there is concern for next year because dry conditions have hurt reproduction.
On a local scale, Greg said things are shaping up pretty good for this season also. Georgia wood duck banding numbers are about average, and he’s seeing some pretty good wood duck reproduction even with the drought.
Population surveys for wood ducks in the Atlantic Flyway are also good. Biologists along the flyway have been keeping a close eye on wood ducks since the limit was raised from two to three in the 2008-09 season, and populations appear to be expanding.
Resident Canada goose populations also remain strong, despite a drop from 275,000 estimated geese last year to 260,000 geese this year. Greg said that’s a slight decrease compared to historical numbers and continues a trend of slowing growth in Georgia’s resident Canada goose populations.
A bird that is becoming a target for coastal Georgia duck hunters is the black-bellied whistling duck. Greg said they started showing up from Florida about 10 years ago, and they have taken hold on the coast in the last four years. There are no special protections for this duck, which can be a part of a six-duck limit.
The proposed seasons and bag limits below were expected to be approved on Aug. 29.
Click here to download the 2012-13 Duck Population Estimates.
Click here to download the 2012-13 Proposed Waterfowl Seasons and Bag Limits.