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March 18, 2003 (rt23 news) - In January, the Department of Environmental Protection’s, Division of Fish and Wildlife completed New Jersey’s portion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 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 in January since 1955.

As part of the survey, professional pilots fly Division biologists over important waterfowl wintering areas in the state. While in the air, these biologists identify and estimate the number of waterfowl sighted.

The study is conducted simultaneously in all Atlantic Flyway states (17 eastern states from Maine to Florida) to measure the abundance and distribution of wintering waterfowl in this area. It is one of the most important long-term surveys used to monitor the status of waterfowl, particularly American black ducks and Atlantic brant (note that New Jersey is the single most important wintering ground in the world for Atlantic brant and black ducks).

The 2003 study was logistically difficult to complete in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states given recurring episodes of rain, snow and high winds that made survey flights impossible. Although approximately 15% of the state was surveyed on December 30 and 31, biologists were not able to conduct surveys again until January 10-21 when winds and precipitation finally subsided.

At the beginning of the survey, virtually no ice cover existed. However, as the days progressed, bitter winter temperatures and heavy ice hampered survey efforts. This heavy ice coverage undoubtedly had an impact on the distribution of waterfowl, which is why biologists stress that survey results are most appropriately viewed at the Flyway level and over the long-term.

Preliminary survey reports reveal that 3.4 million waterfowl were counted in the Flyway, which is 7% below 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 164,500 (+15%), black ducks 224,600 (no change), snow geese 402,300 (+27%), Canada geese 1,078,100 (+34%), bufflehead 74,000 (+12%), mute swans 12,300 (+54%), mallards 133,100 (-19%) and scaup 337,400 (-39%).

In New Jersey, a total of 744,126 waterfowl of 25 different species were counted, which is similar to 2002 and a 32% 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 Garden State include: Atlantic brant (65%), black ducks (35%), snow geese (30%), Canada geese (25%), bufflehead (25%), mute swans (20%), mallards (18%) and scaup (10%). The 2003 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 118,005 (+20%), black ducks 108,333 (+31%), snow geese 110,310 (+47%), Canada geese 275,995 (+49%), bufflehead 26,525 (+70%), mute swans 2,248 (+52%), mallards 34,950 (+21%) and scaup 29,620

Posted by: Staff at
Website: NJ Fish and Wildlife
March 18, 2003


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