March 3, 1998

For more information contact:
Paul Castelli at 609-748-2047

The Department of Environmental Protection's, Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife recently completed New Jersey's portion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Atlantic Flyway Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey. This survey, designed to track long-term trends of waterfowl species wintering along the Atlantic coast, has been conducted annually each January since 1955.

"This survey is conducted simultaneously in all Atlantic Flyway states to measure the abundance and distribution of wintering waterfowl in the region," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "It is important to note that these survey figures are taken from flights conducted over key wintering areas and are not an absolute count of the entire waterfowl population. The mid-winter survey is one of the most important long-term studies used to monitor the status of waterfowl."

Mild winter weather resulted in waterfowl that were widely dispersed during the 1998 survey. This year, a total of 523,904 waterfowl of 28 different species were counted during New Jersey's portion of the survey, which generally comprises 15 percent of the entire waterfowl total for the Atlantic Flyway each year. The total represents a six percent increase over last year and a three percent increase over the past 10-year average. Above average counts of Canada geese and snow geese accounted for the largest portion of the observed increase this year.

The survey covered important waterfowl wintering areas throughout the entire state. Division biologists, responsible for identifying and counting the waterfowl sighted, conducted a number of flights with the assistance of professional pilots. Information collected in the interstate survey allows Division and USFWS biologists to better manage migratory waterfowl species along the Atlantic coast.

Important species where a significant proportion of the Atlantic Flyway total have been counted in New Jersey include: Atlantic brant (70%), black ducks (35%), snow geese (30%), Canada geese (15%), mallards (17%), scaup (15%), bufflehead (25%) and mute swans (20%). The 1998 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey count in New Jersey for these major waterfowl species with comparisons to their latest 10-year average are as follows: Atlantic brant 67,285 (-30%), black ducks 73,660 (-8%), snow geese 92,525 (+44%), Canada geese 174,344 (+29%), mallards 23,480 (-22%), scaup 35,260 (-40%), bufflehead 22,595 (+68%) and mute swans 1,765 (+23%).

"It is important to note that winter temperatures, amount of rainfall and other factors can play an important part in the distribution of different waterfowl species among states within a given year," said Division Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program Leader Paul Castelli.

Final Atlantic Flyway figures for this survey will be available from the USFWS in March.

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