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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Top Duck Destinations

Where America's most popular species congregate 
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  • photo by Bill Houghton
Image of
Story at a Glance

Species covered in this article include:

  • Mallard
  • Black Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Pintail
  • Teal
  • Wigeon
  • Canvasback
  • Wood Duck
  • Redhead
  • Scaup
  • Ring-necked Duck


Atlantic Flyway Based on Harvest Information Program (HIP) data for each of the last two seasons, gunners in New York harvested more than 85,000 mallards, leading all states in the Atlantic Flyway. In the fall, mallards migrating south from Ontario, Quebec, and other Canadian provinces are mainly attracted to emergent wetlands in the St. Lawrence River Valley and along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, where they join large numbers of locally raised birds. Another prime destination is Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on Cayuga Lake in the state's Finger Lakes region. Montezuma appeals to migrating mallards because it offers the first significant expanse of wetland habitat—7,068 acres—south of Lake Ontario, and in late fall, the refuge has been known to hold more than 100,000 mallards.

South of the Finger Lakes, the upper Chesapeake Bay is a popular wintering ground for Atlantic Flyway greenheads. For the last two years, Maryland hunters averaged an annual bag of 73,597 mallards, second highest in the flyway. Larry Hindman, waterfowl project manager for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, believes mallard numbers are most concentrated on the Susquehanna Flats; along the Chester River on the upper Eastern Shore; and on estuarine wetlands farther down the Eastern Shore.

Mississippi Flyway The mallard is king of the Mississippi Flyway. Nearly half the 4.5 million mallards harvested last year in the United States were taken in this flyway. While hunters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Mississippi enjoy good mallard shooting, those in Arkansas often enjoy the best. According to HIP data for 2001-2004, Arkansas averaged an annual mallard harvest of 598,448 birds, more than twice that of California's second-place harvest. Mallards are primarily drawn to the eastern third of the state, which devotes almost 1.5 million acres to rice production. The town of Stuttgart is located at this region's heart, earning it the nickname The Rice and Duck Capital of the World. Throughout Arkansas, flooded rice fields, green timber, and river bottoms are popular places for hunting these birds.

Since the late 1990s, Missouri has emerged as a mallard hotspot in this flyway. In addition to a series of mild winters, state waterfowl biologist Andrew Raedeke attributes the high quality of hunting in the state to improvements in wetland habitat and smart management of public hunting areas. On Missouri's wildlife management areas, the state establishes a limit on the number of hunters who draw daily for a set number of spots.

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