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2005-06 Migratory Bird Season
Information and Population Status

by Ted Nichols
Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program Biologist
August 31, 2005

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife informs hunters that the 2005-06 migratory bird hunting season regulations for New Jersey have been set. Major changes for the upcoming season include the following:

  • Nontoxic shot is required for hunting rail, snipe, and moorhens AT ALL TIMES
  • The daily bag limit for scaup is 2 birds per day.
  • The brant season will be closed during part of the duck season in all zones.
  • The canvasback season will be closed during part of the duck season in all zones.
  • The pintail bag limit is one bird for the full duration of the duck season.
Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Martin J. McHugh has this to say about the season: "The status of ducks and their habitats in mid-continent and eastern North America are sufficient to justify a liberal duck hunting season framework. "In Atlantic Flyway states like New Jersey, this translates into a 60-day duck season."

Sportsmen who are willing to travel will be able to hunt ducks in at least one of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones from October 8, 2005 until January 24, 2006. If hunters also consider Canada geese, rails and snow geese, there will be potential migratory bird hunting opportunity available from September 1 through March 10.

Each year, hunting regulations for migratory birds are developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) after input and consultation with the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyway councils. The flyway councils are comprised of representatives from state and provincial wildlife agencies that work together with the USFWS to cooperatively manage North America's migratory bird populations.

Duck hunting regulations are based on biological population assessments using the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) process. AHM, developed by the USFWS and flyway councils, is a regulation-setting process based on science and objectivity. During 2005, the AHM process suggested that a liberal duck hunting season in all flyways was consistent with the long-term welfare of North American waterfowl populations.

Most species of ducks in the eastern and mid-continent survey areas were near their long-term averages, although there is concern for some species. For example, scaup populations have remained depressed for more than 20 years and in 2005, reached a record low of 3.4 million birds -- 35% below the long-term average. Due to the continued poor status of scaup, bag limits were reduced to 2 scaup per day. Although pintails remained below their long-term average, 2005 population indices increased 17% relative to last year. As a result, pintails were reinstated as a legal species through the 60-day duck season.

The canvasback population is similar to the long-term average but population assessments suggest that a liberal season would likely result in a reduced canvasback population next year. As such, the canvasback season will be 30 days with a bag limit of 1 bird throughout the Atlantic Flyway states.

The daily bag limit in New Jersey will be 6 ducks and may not include more than 4 mallards (including no more than 2 hens), 4 scoters, 2 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail and 1 black duck. Pintails will be open for the duration of the duck season. The canvasback bag limit will be 1 bird during the time when the canvasback season is open and harvested canvasbacks count toward the total bag limit of 6 ducks.

A total of 162,000 breeding pairs of Atlantic Population (AP) or "migrant" Canada geese were estimated from surveys during June 2005 on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This estimate is similar to 2004, although banding crews working in these areas during August reported a much stronger breeding season than last year. The regular season for Canada geese in New Jersey will be maintained at 45-days with a 3-bird bag limit. Additionally, the 2005 September Canada Goose Season will be held on a statewide basis from September 1-30 with a bag limit of 8 birds per day. The Special Winter Canada Goose Season will be held January 23 to February 15, 2006 in two zones with the same hunt area boundaries as last year and a bag limit of 5 Canada geese per day. Both the September and Special Winter seasons are targeted at Resident Population Canada geese that number about one million birds in the Atlantic Flyway.

At the request of the Atlantic Flyway Council, the USFWS included white-fronted geese as part of the Canada goose bag limit during the Regular and Special Winter Canada Goose seasons. White-fronted and Canada goose bag and possession limits are considered singly or in the aggregate during these two seasons. The addition is the result of increasing numbers of white-fronted geese observed during migration and wintering periods in Atlantic Flyway states. These white-fronted geese are likely birds that breed on the western coast of Greenland, which is the same geographic area where some North Atlantic Population Canada geese breed. Adding white-fronted geese to Canada goose hunting regulation frameworks will legalize the incidental take of white-fronted geese and reduce the confusion associated with the take of this species among waterfowl hunters.

Since Atlantic brant breed in remote wilderness of the Canadian arctic, their status is measured during January surveys on their wintering grounds. In the 2005 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey, 123,000 brant were counted -- 5% below the previous year's survey and the third consecutive year that brant had declined in this survey. Additionally, gosling production for brant is expected to be below average this year due to poor nesting conditions in key nesting colonies in the eastern Canadian arctic. As a result, brant regulations in Atlantic Flyway states will be shortened from last year. This year brant regulations will include a 30-day season with a 2 bird bag limit.

Snow goose populations remain high and biologists are concerned about the impacts snow geese have on fragile arctic nesting habitats. Serious damage to arctic wetlands has already been documented in several key snow goose breeding colonies. This damage impacts the snow geese themselves, as well as other wildlife dependent on the arctic ecosystem. Serious damage to agriculture also occurs in migration and wintering areas. The season length for snow geese is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bag limits will remain liberal this year with 15 snow geese per day and no possession limit.

All migratory bird hunters are reminded that they must obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number before hunting ducks, geese, brant, woodcock, rails, snipe, coots or gallinules in New Jersey. Hunters can get their HIP number simply by calling 1-800-WETLAND or by registering on the Division's Web site on the HIP page. The information provided by sportsmen and women is confidential and will only be used by the USFWS for conducting migratory bird harvest surveys.

Information on special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days and special nontoxic shot regulations for snipe, rail and moorhens can also be found on the Division's Web site, linked below. Information on the status of waterfowl and habitat conditions can be viewed on the USFWS' Web site at:

The 2005-06 New Jersey migratory bird hunting season dates follow. The 2005-06 Migratory Bird Regulations publication will be available at Division offices, license agents and sporting goods stores throughout the state in September.

2005-06 Migratory Bird Regulations Summary (pdf, 8kb)
NJ Offers Four Youth Waterfowl Days in 2005
New Nontoxic Shotgun Shell Regulations for 2005

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2005
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 31, 2005