This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, and state and provincial agencies will begin the 59th North American Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey. This survey is the most extensive wildlife census in the world. Twelve teams of pilot-biologists will survey all major nesting areas in North America, counting waterfowl and assessing habitat from the Dakotas to the Arctic and from Canada's Maritime Provinces to Alaska. Flying an average of 150 feet above the ground in fixed-wing aircraft, these teams cover the same transects (straight overland routes) each spring. Survey crews on the ground also count waterfowl along portions of aerial transects so USFWS statisticians can correct the aerial survey data for any waterfowl that may have been missed from the air.
"These annual breeding waterfowl surveys have been a fundamental tool for successfully managing this continent's waterfowl for almost 60 years," says Paul Schmidt, DU's chief conservation officer. “Without these data, scientists and managers would not be able to do the work they do to further the science and conservation that underpins the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and waterfowl harvest regulations."
The results of this year's survey will allow managers to estimate the size of waterfowl populations and the status of key breeding habitats across the United States and Canada. This information will be used to set hunting seasons and daily bag limits for the 2014–2015 waterfowl season. This year, you can follow the pilot-biologists and ground crews on DU's Habitat Map as they cover survey transects across this continent's major waterfowl breeding areas. Reports posted regularly on the map will detail the survey's progress as well as the adventures of the pilots and other survey crew members.
Strata and transects of the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (yellow = traditional survey area, green = eastern survey area).