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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Top Duck Destinations

Where America's most popular species congregate 
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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

Black Duck

Black-duck hunting is largely confined to the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, with Michigan and coastal states like New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia having the most success. The South Shore of New York's Long Island is recognized as a classic destination for black ducks. Craig Kessler, DU's manager for conservation programs on Long Island and New Jersey, says, "The birds are attracted to the South Shore's tidal marshes, shallow embayments, and mud flats, where they find salt marsh snails and other invertebrates that make up the majority of their diet." Black ducks also winter in the salt marshes blanketing the New Jersey coast. State biologist Don Wilkinson says that approximately 60 percent of the black ducks in the Atlantic Flyway winter along the New Jersey shore and in Delaware Bay. Joe DeMartino, DU regional director for New Jersey, says the largest concentrations are most likely found in Absecon Bay near Atlantic City or Barnegat Bay.

Gadwall

It's pretty unusual for a region to harvest twice as many gadwalls as mallards. But this regularly happens in Louisiana. Unlike mallards, gadwalls are not grain eaters. For this reason, they migrate in great numbers to the freshwater marshes of coastal Louisiana. A significant number of birds begin to arrive in late October with the peak migration occurring from mid-November to mid-December. This past January, the state's midwinter survey counted an estimated 938,000 gadwalls in southern Louisiana. Other traditional locations for gadwalls include eastern Arkansas and coastal Texas. But hunters throughout North Dakota have had increasing success on gadwalls in recent years. Again, this trend is probably tied to a series of mild winters and to the fact that this state's prairies annually host about a fourth of the continent's gadwall breeding population.

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