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March 8, 2002


For more information contact:
Ted Nichols at 609-628-3218

The Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife recently completed New Jersey's portion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Atlantic Flyway Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey. This survey, designed to track long-term trends of waterfowl species wintering along the Atlantic coast, has been conducted annually each January since 1955.

"This survey is conducted simultaneously in all Atlantic Flyway states to measure the abundance and distribution of wintering waterfowl in the region," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "It is important to note that these survey figures are taken from flights conducted over key wintering areas and are not an absolute count of the entire waterfowl population. The mid-winter survey is one of the most important long-term studies used to monitor the status of waterfowl."

Despite reports from hunters of relatively low numbers of ducks in the State prior to mid-December, cold temperatures at the very end of the month moved large numbers of dabbling ducks, particularly black ducks and mallards, from the north and into New Jersey by early January. Many of these birds had probably remained in southern Canada and New England through late fall given the mild temperatures. The survey count for black ducks was the highest ever recorded in the State, while counts for mallards and pintails (8,245 pintails) were the second highest ever recorded for those species. The second highest State count for Canada geese was also recorded. Counts were particularly high in areas of the State where migrant, sub-arctic breeding Canada geese are known to spend winter, providing further evidence of a strong recovery of this population.

This year, a total of 750,263 waterfowl of 25 different species were counted in New Jersey which is a 46% increase from last year and a 37% increase from the past 10-year average. In an average year, about 15% of the total waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway are counted in New Jersey.

Important species where a significant portion of the Atlantic Flyway total have been counted in the State (indicated by New Jersey percent of flyway total in parentheses) include: Atlantic brant (65%), black ducks (35%), snow geese (30%), Canada geese (25%), bufflehead (25%), mute swans (20%), mallards (18%), and scaup (10%). The 2002 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey count in New Jersey for these major waterfowl species with comparisons to their latest 10-year average were as follows: Atlantic brant 124,590 (+25%), black ducks 115,280 (+46%), snow geese 122,450 (+61%), Canada geese 241,328 (+40%), bufflehead 18,600 (+32%), mute swans 1,648 (+15%), mallards 39,010 (+43%) and scaup 47,155 (-8%). Scaup, canvasbacks and tundra swans were the only major species below their respective 10-year average in 2002.

At the Atlantic Flyway level, 3.9 million waterfowl were estimated, which is 6% above the latest 10-year average. Major waterfowl species in the Atlantic Flyway with comparisons to their latest 10-year average were as follows: Atlantic brant 181,631 (+27%), black ducks 255,403 (+19%), snow geese 377,769 (+24%), Canada geese 1,050,698 (+38%), bufflehead 72,420 (+12%), mute swans 8,673 (+11%), mallards 161,365 (-2%) and scaup 424,035 (-24%).

The Division is indebted to the USFWS for allowing use of their aircraft and pilot for a portion of the survey in 2002. Following the tragedies of September 11, USFWS pilot-biologists met with Federal Aviation Administration officials and were granted special permission to enter air-space restricted areas around New York harbor, Newark and Philadelphia International airports as well as Salem and Oyster Creek nuclear generating stations for the purpose of completing these surveys. All of these sensitive areas are located near wetlands where considerable numbers of waterfowl are counted during the Mid-Winter Survey. Without support from the USFWS, surveys in these areas could not have been completed in 2002.