Pintails are among the first ducks to migrate south in the fall, just in time for the start of Mississippi's waterfowl hunting season. (Photo by iStock)
Waterfowl include ducks, geese, and swans, and they are migratory birds that move south to winter and north in the spring to breed. Most North American waterfowl breed in Canada and the northern tier of the United States in small ponds or lakes called Potholes. The hens nest on the ground and are extremely vulnerable during this time.
Annually, predation can dramatically impact the production of young. The amount of snow and rain effects the quality and quantity of breeding habitat (nesting edge), which ultimately effects production also.
During the 1970's, the United States enjoyed high waterfowl populations due to abundant rainfall on the breeding grounds. During the 1980's and early 1990's, general habitat quality declined, and nesting quality and quantity due to low water conditions, resulting in extremely low waterfowl populations.
Since 1993, water conditions have improved, and habitat conditions in the lower 48 states have received much needed attention, due to efforts among various partners in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Conservation partners have included organizations such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (with responsibility for all migratory birds), state wildlife and fishery agencies, Ducks Unlimited, and private organizations. With the increased nesting habitat and more intensive management, waterfowl populations responded and have reached all-time high population numbers, based on estimates and indices provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Canada Geese have been transplanted across the southern U.S. and protected over the past several decades. Their numbers have increased to the point that in many areas bag limits are being increased almost annually to keep their numbers in check. In specific areas (golf courses, lawns, farm ponds) they are becoming a nuisance.
Snow Geese have increased almost exponentially in numbers during this same time. During the past few years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have become increasingly concerned with the burgeoning populations. Farmers in the major flyways are incurring moderate to severe crop damage during the annual migration, and geese are severely impacting vegetation and nesting habitat on the breeding grounds. With overpopulated habitat there is the increasing likelihood for a major die off due to disease or other factors related to nutrition. Special seasons, bag limits, and methods of harvest have been and likely will continue to be utilized with snow and similar geese.
Some ducks reside year round in the Southeast. For example, the Wood Duck is one of three migratory waterfowl species that nest regularly in Mississippi. These most colorful birds are one of the more abundant ducks in Mississippi, and along with the Mallard, make up a sizable portion of Mississippi hunter's bag.
It’s that time of year when medical experts recommend we all get flu shots to minimize the chance of influenza causing us to get really sick or, in extreme cases, even die. Believe it or not, wildlife can get the flu, too.
JACKSON, Miss. -- The sound of Canada geese calling overhead from their V-formation used to be the telltale sign that autumn had arrived. These days, residents of the Eastern U.S., including Mississippi, can hear this sound nearly year-round.
In many urban areas, geese commonly greet people taking a morning stroll or walking into work. Others, like myself, have been aggressively escorted off the 18th hole at the local golf course by adult geese protecting their young. Simply put, there are two types of people: those who love geese and those who do not.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Every July, waterfowl biologists from the Mississippi Flyway Council, comprised of 14 states and 3 Canadian provinces, look at many factors to predict the total number of ducks available for harvest in the fall flight forecast. Then they use this number to determine the framework of seasons, dates and bag limits for the fall hunting season.
This year we are expected to have an annual fall flight of 49.2 million birds, which is an 8 percent growth in population from last year and 43 percent higher than the long-term average for North American waterfowl.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The days are getting longer, and the temperatures are warming up. Spring is almost here, and soon the birds will arrive.
More than 200 bird species migrate northward every spring from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S. and Central and South America.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi State University’s waterfowl and wetlands science program was recently honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan, a program of the service’s Division of Bird Habitat Conservation, gave the Blue-winged Teal Award to MSU’s program because of its significant contributions to waterfowl, other wetland-associated migratory bird populations, and wetlands habitats.