New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

Waterfowl Count 2004Posted 4/13/05
 

The January Waterfowl Count, 2004
 
Bryan L. Swift
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-47
50

SUMMARY

The New York State Ornithological Association (formerly Federation of New York State Bird Clubs) annual January Waterfowl Count (JWC), was held during January 10-19, 2004 with approximately 230 participants. Harsh winter weather prior to and during the count resulted in many areas being frozen over and difficult viewing conditions. Nonetheless, a total of 347,661 birds (47 species) were observed, 8% more than in 2003 and 24% above the long-term (1973-2003) average. Total counts of ducks and other water birds (loons, grebes, cormorants and coot) were slightly below average, while total numbers of geese and swans were well above average. The top 10 species, accounting for 88% of the total, were: Canada Goose, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Redhead, Surf Scoter, American Black Duck, Brant, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, and Bufflehead. Several notable regional highlights were reported.

 

Bufflehead pair, photo by Carena Pooth

Northern Pintail
photo ©Carena Pooth

INTRODUCTION

The New York State Ornithological Association (formerly 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 coot). 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. 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 2004 were not obtained, but regional compilers reported severe winter weather conditions just prior to and during the count all across the state. As reported by Guthrie (2004): “There was no doubt that the weather during 2003-04 winter season had an impact on birds and birders. Many areas across the state experienced heavy snow in December, followed by severe cold in January, when average temperatures were in the range of 5-10 degrees below normal...The severe cold in January resulted in little open water in most of the state, and , subsequently, lower than normal waterfowl totals...” (except for geese and swans).

Regional compilers all reported that such conditions prevailed during the count period, with temperatures well below freezing, occasional snow fall, strong winds on many days, and extensive ice cover, making waterfowl viewing difficult. As a result of this weather pattern, most small inland waters and some larger bays and lakes were completely frozen. Many larger lakes, rivers, and coastal bays had significant shoreline ice that limited waterfowl use.

 

RESULTS

A total of 347,661, comprising 47 species, were counted in 2004 (Table 1). The 2003 total was 8% above 2003 and 24% above the long-term (1973-2003) average of 280,376 birds (Table 2). Unfortunately, several important areas on Long Island, accounting for approximately 13% of the total count, were surveyed after the scheduled survey period, due to difficulties finding volunteers to replace past observers who were unable to do the counts this year.

Comparison of the 2004 counts with long-term (1973-2003) averages shows 10 of 21 major species or taxa at least 10% above average, and nine species or taxa more than 10% below average (Table 2). Canada Geese (156,960) climbed to the 3rd highest count ever, while most ducks, except Common Eider and scoters, declined from a year ago. Counts of most other water birds declined also, except for Double-crested Cormorant. A new high count was established for Black Scoter (3,185).

Total waterfowl numbers in the Atlantic Flyway (Maine to Florida) were up 2% from 2003, but were 7% below the 10-year (1994-2003) average (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, unpublished data). Flyway counts of dabbling ducks were up 9% from a year ago, diving ducks increased 22%, and sea ducks decreased 21%. Flyway counts of Canada Geese and Brant declined 18% and 21%, respectively, whereas Snow Geese and Brant were up 37% from a year ago. It appears that some of the decline in duck numbers in New York were compensated for by increases in more southern states. Annual changes in relative abundance in New York often do not mirror flyway trends because state counts reflect effects of weather as well as population changes.

Highlights of regional reports included a Northern Shoveler on the Niagara River and a record number of Tundra Swans in Region 1, a Tufted Duck on Lake Ontario (Region 2), two Barrow’s Goldeneye on Lake Champlain (Region 7), White-fronted Geese in Dutchess County (Region 9), a Tundra Swan on the lower Hudson River (Region 9), and a King Eider and 11 Harlequin Ducks at Long Beach Island, contributing to a new high of 14 Harlequins in Region 10 (Table 1). Numbers of Long-tailed Ducks in Region 1 increased slightly from 2003 but were still below the numbers seen in recent years. This decline may be due to the recent outbreak of Type E botulism in that region, which has killed thousands of this species every fall since 2001.

 

FUTURE COUNTS

The JWC 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 JWC 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:

2006 - January 14-22 (target date - Sunday, January 15); and
2007 - January 13-21 (target date - Sunday, January 14).

For more information about the JWC, visit NYSOA's Waterfowl Count page.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank all of the observers who participated this year, especially for enduring cold winter weather to conduct these counts. 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 helping to compile the regional counts for this report

 

LITERATURE CITED

Guthrie, A. 2004. Highlights of the season - winter 2003/2004. Kingbird 54:135-140.

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.

 

Table 1. Regional totals for 2004 January Waterfowl Count.
Note:  R8 Common Goldeneye and Common Eider counts were corrected 4/12/04.

See Region Map (popup)      View or download historical data for 1973-2004

Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Goose, White-fronted                
2
2
4
    Snow    
16
     
9
1
6
112
144
    Canada
4,228
2,087
43,234
869
15,459
3,224
1
7,961
21,925
57,972
156,960
Brant                
32
10,521
10,553
Swan, Mute
1
156
16
1
7
   
1
415
1,070
1,667
    Trumpeter  
2
1
 
1
         
4
    Tundra
402
 
245
 
13
     
1
 
661
Wood Duck
6
3
1
 
2
     
5
6
23
Gadwall
12
26
61
 
9
     
65
1,214
1,387
Wigeon, Eurasian                  
3
3
    American
24
 
4
9
       
78
845
960
Am. Black Duck
287
299
1,561
42
209
131
145
320
1,132
7,638
11,764
Mallard
8,558
4,294
6,543
532
2,928
557
1,891
1,815
3,534
9,396
40,048
Mallard X Black
3
5
4
 
2
 
1
 
5
40
60
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Blue-winged Teal                  
2
2
Northern Shoveler
3
               
451
454
Northern Pintail
5
 
2
         
4
61
72
Green-winged Teal
2
 
1
         
6
186
195
Canvasback
5,917
 
183
 
4
     
3
804
6,911
Redhead
229
191
13,299
5
14
     
2
18
13,758
Ring-necked Duck
41
6
241
 
53
1
   
171
437
950
Tufted Duck  
1
               
1
Scaup, Greater
8,066
317
158
 
624
10
2
 
941
21,755
31,873
    Lesser
8
108
359
 
10
 
2
 
2
112
601
    not to species  
175
154
       
3
5
56
393
Eider, King                  
1
1
    Common                  
1,504
1,504
Harlequin Duck                  
14
14
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Scoter, Surf                  
12,622
12,622
    White-winged
338
58
1
           
3,139
3,536
    Black    
1
           
3,184
3,185
    not to species            
1
   
3,874
3,875
Long-tailed Duck
868
842
1
 
190
86
   
38
741
2,766
Bufflehead
4,304
192
285
 
173
36
85
 
320
3,083
8,478
Goldeneye, Common
1,683
1,986
1,275
2
951
1,265
840
193
98
1,269
9,562
    Barrow's            
2
     
2
Merganser, Hooded
98
10
41
14
23
4
22
10
102
766
1,090
    Common
3,784
757
660
282
2,141
1,448
629
223
473
11
10,408
    Red-breasted
200
202
298
1
19
3
1
 
136
3,840
4,700
Ruddy Duck
1
3
           
57
1,529
1,590
Loon, Red-throated
1
1
             
41
43
    Common
2
2
10
           
62
76
Species Region
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
Grebe, Pied-billed
9
 
13
 
4
       
5
31
    Horned
1
8
10
 
2
 
4
 
1
171
197
    Red-necked
1
 
4
             
5
    Eared    
1
           
2
3
Cormorant, D.-crested
72
2
19
 
6
     
1
173
273
    Great                
21
68
89
American Coot
37
101
961
30
5
     
41
201
1,376
Unidentified  
56
         
30
 
2,701
2,787
TOTAL OF ABOVE
39,191
11,890
69,663
1,787
22,849
6,765
3,635
10,557
29,622
151,702
347,661

 

Table 2. Comparison of January 2004 waterfowl counts with 2003,
long-term (1973-2003, “LT”) and most recent 10-year (1994-2003) averages
for all species averaging over 1,000 individuals during either period.

Species
2004
2003
10-yr Avg
LT
Avg
% Change
vs 2003
% Change
vs 10-yr
% Change
vs LT
Canada Goose
156,960
111,988
120,960
77,105
40%
30%
104%
Brant
10,553
15,304
16,962
14,984
-31%
-38%
-30%
Mute Swan
1,667
1,749
1,647
1,276
-5%
1%
31%
Gadwall
1,387
1,113
1,508
995
25%
-8%
39%
American Wigeon
960
1,719
1,534
1,666
-44%
-37%
-42%
American Black Duck
11,764
12,415
17,871
19,456
-5%
-34%
-40%
Mallard
40,048
42,825
44,897
33,680
-6%
-11%
19%
Canvasback
6,911
11,862
11,899
11,131
-42%
-42%
-38%
Redhead
13,758
20,615
12,554
8,490
-33%
10%
62%
Ring-necked Duck
950
1,415
1,042
522
-33%
-9%
82%
scaup (both species)
32,867
39,003
37,176
49,374
-16%
-12%
-33%
Common Eider
1,504
236
2,868
979
537%
-48%
54%
scoters (all species)
23,218
6,191
13,960
13,367
275%
66%
74%
Long-tailed Duck
2,766
2,033
5,103
4,469
36%
-46%
-38%
Bufflehead
8,478
9,179
8,367
6,400
-8%
1%
32%
Common Goldeneye
9,562
14,214
13,637
12,579
-33%
-30%
-24%
Hooded Merganser
1,090
1,845
1,300
677
-41%
-16%
61%
Common Merganser
10,408
10,118
8,407
11,262
3%
24%
-8%
Red-breasted Merganser
4,700
5,707
5,529
4,460
-18%
-15%
5%
Ruddy Duck
1,590
4,999
4,496
2,082
-68%
-65%
-24%
American Coot
1,376
1,961
3,066
2,047
-30%
-55%
-33%
Total DUCKS
172,788
186,838
193,190
182,453
-8%
-11%
-5%
Total GEESE and SWANS
169,993
129,330
140,425
93,751
31%
21%
81%
Total OTHER WATER BIRDS
2,093
2,965
4,378
3,057
-29%
-52%
-32%
TOTAL of all species
347,661
320,665
339,380
280,376
8%
2%
24%

 

Historical Waterfowl Count Data, 1973 - 2004       4/13/05

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 Reader...Download Adobe Reader now)

Totals    Region1    Region2    Region3    Region4    Region5
Region6    Region7    Region8    Region9    Region10


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