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March 24, 2009

Mid-winter waterfowl survey shows increases

A South Carolina 2009 mid-winter survey of various waterfowl showed increased numbers of dabbling ducks and also diving ducks and geese.

The mid-winter survey tabulation of waterfowl by species is conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources along with federal and private personnel from the ground, by watercraft and aircraft on and over traditional wintering habitats. A South Carolina mid-winter survey was not conducted in 2008, and numbers from 2009 are compared to the 2007 mid-winter survey.

South Carolina mid-winter survey total waterfowl numbers increased 105 percent from 2007 and were 36 percent above the long-term average.

South Carolina mid-winter survey dabbling duck numbers increased (+104.5 percent) in 2009 from 2007 and were substantially higher (+44.8 percent) than the long-term average during 1999-2009. Dabbling ducks are so named because its members feed mainly on vegetable matter by upending on the water surface, or grazing, and only rarely dive. Green-winged teal, American wigeon and blue-winged teal numbers demonstrated the most dramatic improvements. Green-winged teal numbers climbed 181.7 percent in 2009 from 2007 and remain 107.4 percent above the long-term average from 1999-2009. American wigeon numbers increased 257.0 percent in 2009 from 2007, but continued to be 34.5 percent below the long-term average. Blue-winged teal mid-winter numbers were 193.9 percent and 122.1 percent above the 2007 numbers and the long-term average respectively.

Mid-winter diving duck numbers fluctuate from year-to-year due to weather, habitat related distribution, visibility, survey conditions and other factors. Diving ducks numbers revealed by the mid-winter survey increased (+84.1 percent) in 2009 and represented an increase (+32.5 percent) in 2009 from preceding years. These increases are directly attributable to good survey conditions and quality counts of scaup along the South Carolina coast. 

Mid-winter survey goose numbers in South Carolina remain low, but demonstrated overall improvement increasing 29.6 percent in 2009 and 19.1 percent to the long-term average. Increases in snow and Canada goose numbers in both years accounted for increases.

Surveys of waterfowl are conducted across the continent for specific population management purposes at various periods each year. Survey efforts provide estimated numbers of waterfowl for year-to-year trend analysis. These surveys do not provide an estimate of the numbers of waterfowl wintering in any state or survey unit during a given year or at a prescribed point in time. Further these surveys are subject to various errors which cooperating personnel strive to minimize in order to sustain validity of survey data for comparative purposes.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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