BATON ROUGE — Southwest Louisiana duck hunters will be cheered by a recent aerial waterfowl population survey that showed sharp increases of green-winged teal, shovelers, pintails, ringnecks and canvasbacks for the stretch run of the 2019-20 season.
Louisiana’s water study leader, Larry Reynolds, and his staff saw an estimated 348,000 green-winged teal when they flew the survey’s Coastal Zone transect lines Jan. 6-8 in southwest Louisiana. In December’s survey, the veteran waterfowl biologist counted an estimated 91,000 blue-winged teal.
Reynolds also counted an estimated 129,000 pintails in early January in southwest Louisiana, an increase of 100,000 pintails seen during the survey in December. And there were an estimated 227,000 shovelers in January, up from 124,000 in December.
Also in southwest Louisiana, the ringnecked duck numbers also jumped from an estimated 106,000 in December to 182,000 in January, Reynolds said in his report released Friday. And the canvasback numbers soared from an estimated 3,000 in December to 31,000 in January, he reported.
That there were significant gains in some species of the migratory birds in this region was plus compared to the numbers in southeast Louisiana, where there were huge declines in pintails — 215,000 to 44,000 — and gadwalls — 467,000 to 191,000, according to his report. Also, he reported, there were declines for all dabbling ducks except blue-winged teal and diving ducks such as ringnecks (328,000 to 246,000) in that region.
“The (total) estimate in southeast Louisiana fell from 1.33 million in December to only 745,000 primarily due to big declines in pintails and gadwalls,” Reynolds wrote in his report.
“In contrast, the overall estimates in southwest Louisiana increased from 1.09 million in December to 1.48 million due to increases in green-winged teal, shovelers, pintails and all three diving ducks. Ducks were also more dispersed in southwest Louisiana compared to December with the largest concentrations of ducks seen on Rockefeller Refuge, in the marsh between Little Pecan Lake and Grand Lake, and on the sewage lagoon near Rayne.”
The overall survey, which includes northeast and northwest Louisiana, as well as Catahoula Lake, showed a significant dropoff in the overwintering duck population over previous years, he reported.
“The 2.30 million ducks on this survey is 11 percent lower than the 2.57 million estimated in December, and 22 percent below the long-term January average of 2.96 million. In the last six years, the January estimate has been essentially the same or lower than in December, and this is the third time during that period it has been at least 10 percent lower,” he wrote.
Southwest Louisiana’s habitat conditions earlier this month were similar to December with slightly higher water levels in most of the coastal marsh except for tidal areas influenced by wind and tides, Reynolds reported. There was increased acreage in very shallow-flooded habitat in the agricultural areas from recent rainfall but that was more suitable for shorebirds than ducks, he reported.
Coastal waterfowl biologists have seem declining numbers of dabbiling ducks in many locations during a warming trend since late December, he reported.Also, biologists in Arkansas and Missouri reported influxes of pintails and shovelers in January. Arkansas reported higher numbers of both species, plus gadwalls.