New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

Waterfowl Count 2003Updated 4/12/04
 

New York State Federation Waterfowl Count
January 2003
 
Bryan L. Swift
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-47
50

ABSTRACT

The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs’ annual midwinter waterfowl count, or “Federation Waterfowl Count” (FWC), was held during Jan 11-20, 2003 with approximately 285 participants. Harsh winter weather prior to and during the count resulted in many areas being frozen over and difficult viewing conditions. A total of 320,665 birds (46 species) were observed, 28% fewer than the record high count in 2002, but still 19% above the 1973-2000 average. The top 10 species, accounting for 88% of the total, were: Canada Goose, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Redhead, Brant, Common Goldeneye, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Common Merganser, and Bufflehead. Most dabbling ducks and Canada Geese declined from 2002, whereas counts of most diving duck species increased.

Bufflehead pair, photo by Carena Pooth

Buffleheads
photo ©Carena Pooth

INTRODUCTION

The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs has conducted an annual midwinter waterfowl count (FWC) almost every year since 1955 (Rising 1955) except for a brief hiatus in 1968-1972 (Jones 1980). Each January, participants visit lakes, rivers and shorelines throughout New York State to count waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and associated water birds (e.g., loons, grebes, cormorants and coots). Whenever possible, counts are conducted during a 9-day count period beginning on the second Saturday after New Year’s Day, with a target date of the first Sunday in that period. (Note: this was incorrectly listed as the first Saturday after New Year’s Day in last year’s report.) Most counts are conducted during the first 3 days of the period, but in some cases additional time is needed to complete the counts.

 

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Official weather data for January 2003 were not available, but Regional compilers reported severe winter weather conditions across the state. High temperatures were at or below freezing for several weeks before the count, and temperatures were generally lower during the count. Significant snowfalls occurred in early January, and additional light snow fell during the count in some areas. Snow cover and ice persisted through the count period, and strong winds (15-30 mph) were common, making waterfowl viewing difficult. As a result of this weather pattern, most small inland waters and some larger lakes were completely frozen. Many larger lakes, rivers, and coastal bays had significant shoreline ice that limited waterfowl use.

 

RESULTS

A total of 320,665 birds, comprising 46 species, was counted in 2003 (Table 1). The 2003 total was 28% below 2002 (Table 2), but 19% above the 28-year (1973-2000) average of 268,763 birds (Table 3). Less than 2% of the total count was recorded outside of the scheduled survey period.

Comparison of 2003 counts with 28-year (1973-2000) averages shows 7 of 13 major species or taxa at least 10% above average, and five species or taxa more than 10% below average (Table 3). Canada Goose (111,988) declined 47% from the record high of 211,191 in 2002, and accounted for most of the decrease in total counts between years. All major dabbling ducks, sea ducks and swans declined from 2002, whereas most diving ducks increased. Counts of most other water birds declined also, except for Double-crested Cormorant. New high counts were not established for any species, unlike 2002 when records were established for seven species. Lower counts of most dabbling ducks and geese probably reflected the extensive ice cover over most shallow waters in the state. Nonetheless, the low Snow Goose count (11) was surprising given the tremendous abundance of this species in recent years

Total waterfowl numbers in the Atlantic Flyway (Maine to Florida) were down 17% from 2002, and were 19% below the 10-year (1993-2002) average (Serie and Raftovich 2003). Flyway counts of dabbling ducks were down 16% from a year ago, diving ducks declined 24%, and sea ducks decreased 40%. Flyway counts of Snow Geese, Canada Geese and Brant were all within 10% of a year ago. Annual changes in relative abundance in New York often do not mirror flyway trends because state counts reflect distributional shifts in response to weather as well as population changes.

Highlights of Regional reports included a King Eider in Lake Ontario in Niagara County (Region 1), a single Ross’ goose at Fair Haven (Region 5), reports of Tufted Duck in three Regions, and Barrow’s Goldeneye in four Regions (Table 1). Numbers of Long-tailed Ducks in Region 1 declined sharply from recent years, perhaps due to the recent outbreak of Type E botulism in that Region, which killed several thousand of this species in fall 2002. Numbers of Greater Scaup and Hooded Merganser in Region 7 were record highs for the FWC in that Region.

 

FUTURE COUNTS

The FWC is a valuable long-term population monitoring program for waterfowl and other water birds wintering in New York State. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has discontinued aerial surveys of waterfowl wintering in New York, so they now rely on the FWC as the standard survey. It is important that member clubs and individuals maintain complete and consistent coverage of areas surveyed in the past to ensure that results are comparable from year-to-year and over the long-term. Future counts are scheduled as follows:

2004 - January 10-18 (target date - Sunday, January 11)
2005 - January 15-23 (target date - Sunday, January 16)

Please note that the dates for 2005 were listed incorrectly last year.

For more information about the FWC, visit the Federation's Waterfowl Count page.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank all of the approximately 285 observers who participated this year, especially for enduring very cold winter weather during the 2003 count. A special thanks to the following Regional Compilers who coordinated the efforts of all those volunteers:

Region Compiler Region Compiler
1 William Burch 6 Gerard C. LeTendre
2 Greg Hartenstein 7 John M. C. Peterson
3 Eric Donohue 8 Bryan Swift
4 Gail Kirch 9 Michael Usai
5 Marge Rusk 10 Ronald & Jean Bourque

Thanks also to Elizabeth Renar of DEC for help compiling all the regional counts for this summary.

 

LITERATURE CITED

Jones, M. 1980. The New York State waterfowl count - a quarter century report. Kingbird 30:210-216.

Rising, G. R. 1955. The January waterfowl count. Kingbird 5:34-36.

Serie, J. R. and R. V. Raftovich, Jr. 2003. Atlantic Flyway Midwinter Waterfowl Survey 2003 - Final Report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management, Laurel, MD. 3 p.

 

Table 1. Regional totals for January 2003 Federation Waterfowl Count.    4/12/04
Note:  R8 Common Goldeneye and Common Eider counts were corrected 4/12/04.

See Region Map (popup)      View or download historical data for 1973-2000

Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Goose, White-fronted
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
6
6
    Snow
1
0
1
0
0
0
1
1
2
5
11
    Ross'
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
    Canada
3931
4172
21686
813
7753
463
942
17080
8929
46219
111,988
Brant
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
75
15229
15,304
Swan, Mute
3
141
3
0
3
2
4
152
148
1293
1,749
    Trumpeter
0
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
    Tundra
169
4
53
2
19
22
0
0
0
0
269
Wood Duck
5
5
2
0
6
0
0
0
2
23
43
Gadwall
66
59
64
0
45
14
0
0
76
789
1,113
Wigeon, Eurasian
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
4
    American
13
4
15
0
0
0
0
0
120
1567
1,719
Am. Black Duck
224
165
1739
127
334
382
230
484
1292
7438
12,415
Mallard
7128
4570
6741
876
3711
2394
2957
1626
3302
9520
42,825
Mallard X Black
0
38
3
1
8
2
0
0
5
26
83
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Blue-winged Teal
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Northern Shoveler
0
6
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
464
472
Northern Pintail
1
7
0
1
0
1
2
1
1
282
296
Green-winged Teal
0
2
0
0
3
0
0
0
0
425
430
Canvasback
10406
17
208
0
2
0
0
304
84
841
11,862
Redhead
169
1225
19077
6
97
2
1
2
1
35
20,615
Ring-necked Duck
65
13
87
0
597
5
47
1
12
588
1,415
Tufted Duck
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
1
3
Scaup, Greater
15447
478
53
0
244
241
1001
0
5415
11958
34,837
    Lesser
27
359
3
0
8
0
1
1
213
2257
2,869
    not to species
0
301
61
0
200
0
0
0
0
735
1,297
Eider, King
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
    Common
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
235
245
Harlequin Duck
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
8
9
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Scoter, Surf
1
6
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
2416
2,424
    White-winged
24
418
4
0
49
0
0
1
0
367
863
    Black
0
1
0
0
2
0
1
0
0
576
580
    not to species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2324
2,324
Long-tailed Duck
392
171
26
0
208
146
0
0
58
1032
2,033
Bufflehead
3962
342
303
0
186
408
97
1
501
3379
9,179
Goldeneye, Common
2357
3337
834
163
587
2617
2838
253
79
1149
14,205
    Barrow's
0
0
1
0
0
2
3
0
0
2
8
Merganser, Hooded
133
6
18
7
16
2
99
225
159
1180
1,845
    Common
5162
886
163
240
393
681
1406
451
654
82
10,118
    Red-breasted
1630
454
5
1
108
152
5
0
244
3108
5,707
Ruddy Duck
2
0
10
0
29
0
0
0
106
4852
4,999
Loon, Red-throated
0
0
1
0
1
2
0
0
8
109
121
    Common
1
2
9
2
4
0
2
0
3
95
118
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Grebe, Pied-billed
15
2
20
1
5
0
0
0
0
47
90
    Horned
4
1
0
0
8
2
25
0
8
162
210
    Red-necked
0
1
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
6
8
    Eared
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
3
Cormorant, D.-crested
85
5
0
0
16
0
0
0
1
202
309
    Great
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
39
106
145
American Coot
141
130
1244
50
6
0
1
0
65
324
1,961
Unidentified
528
46
100
0
0
577
0
0
6
275
1,532
TOTAL OF ABOVE
52,095
17,378
52,537
2,290
14,650
8,118
9,664
20,583
21,608
121,742
320,665

 

Table 2. Comparison of the January 2002 and January 2003 counts
for selected waterfowl species.    
4/12/04

View or download historical data for 1973-2000

Species
2002
2003
% Change
Snow Goose
1,069
11
-99%
Canada Goose
211,191
111,988
-47%
Brant
18,101
15,304
-15%
Mute Swan
2,010
1,749
-13%
Gadwall
2,900
1,113
-62%
American Wigeon
1,997
1,719
-14%
American Black Duck
18,225
12,415
-32%
Mallard
47,599
42,825
-10%
Canvasback
10,353
11,862
15%
Redhead
14,428
20,615
43%
Ring-necked Duck
2,234
1,415
-37%
Greater Scaup
24,466
34,837
42%
scoters (all species)
30,963
6,191
-80%
Long-tailed Duck
5,540
2,033
-63%
Bufflehead
9,046
9,179
1%
Common Goldeneye
11,921
14,214
19%
Hooded Merganser
1,633
1,845
13%
Common Merganser
8,648
10,118
17%
Red-breasted Merganser
4,616
5,707
24%
Red-throated Loon
165
121
-27%
Common Loon
628
118
-81%
Horned Grebe
561
210
-63%
Double-crested Cormorant
271
309
14%
Great Cormorant
237
145
-39%
Ruddy Duck
4,135
4,999
21%
American Coot
4,064
1,961
-52%
TOTAL of all species
447,867
320,665
-28%

 

Table 3. Comparison of the January 2003 count with 1973-2000 average
for all species averaging over 1,000 individuals annually.   
4/12/04

View or download historical data for 1973-2000

Species
Average
2003
% Change
Canada Goose
69,459
111,988
61%
Brant
15,109
15,304
1%
American Black Duck
19,826
12,415
-37%
Mallard
32,376
42,825
32%
Canvasback
10,652
11,862
11%
Redhead
7,437
20,615
177%
scaup (both species)
50,222
39,003
-22%
scoters (all species)
12,373
6,191
-50%
Long-tailed Duck
4,386
2,033
-54%
Bufflehead
6,077
9,179
51%
Common Goldeneye
12,292
14,214
16%
Common Merganser
11,461
10,118
-12%
Red-breasted Merganser
4,282
5,707
33%
TOTAL of all species
268,763
320,665
19%
 

Historical Waterfowl Count Data, 1973 - 2003     4/12/04

Note:  R8 Common Goldeneye and Common Eider counts were corrected 4/12/04, as were 1973-2003 average counts            for all regions.
 
Use the following links to view or dowload the complete historical waterfowl count data for 1973-2003:

  Microsoft Excel file containing totals as well as individual spreadsheets for the ten regions

  pdf files for viewing, printing, and/or download: 
             (Require Adobe Acrobat Reader...Download Acrobat Now)

Totals    Region1    Region2    Region3    Region4    Region5
Region6    Region7    Region8    Region9    Region10


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