Migration Alert: Mild Weather Impacts Bird Distribution in Central Flyway

Jan. 13, 2021 – Central Flyway

© Michael Furtman

Despite periods of cold temperatures and snow, ducks and geese remain spread out across the Central Flyway due to a persistent pattern of relatively mild weather conditions. Here is a breakdown of what hunters are seeing on the ground in several key states.

Large stretches of the Missouri River remain open in North Dakota, according to Bismarck hunter Joe Fladeland. “We primarily have big geese here, though there are a few little ones mixed in,” he says. “We just haven’t had the long periods of extremely cold temperatures and enough snow to push them out. With our seasons closed, the river is basically one big refuge right now.”

In central South Dakota, Pierre hunter Tyson Keller reports that the region is holding very few Canada geese and mallards, despite plenty of open water and very little snow cover. “It’s probably the least birds I’ve ever seen,” reports Keller. “There’s maybe a few thousand around the entire Pierre area. I’ve never seen it like this.”

The Missouri River along South Dakota’s extreme southeastern border appears to have more geese, according to Bill Willroth with Dakota Decoys. “No ducks, but we have really good numbers of Canada geese,” says Willroth.

Mallard and Canada goose numbers are both looking good in western Nebraska, reports Ross Juelfs, a guide at the North Platte Outpost. “We have lots of birds here right now, primarily mallards and lesser Canada geese,” says Juelfs. “Even with the good numbers, the hunting is very tough. We’ve had some new birds move in over the past few weeks, but I’m pretty sure we’re trying to hunt birds that showed up back in October. The mallards are about as stale as they can get.”

Hunting success has improved on state wildlife areas in southeastern Kansas, according to reports from the state’s Division of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). Colder temperatures at the beginning of the month triggered changes in daily behavior for mallards and other puddle ducks at Marais des Cynges Wildlife Area but heading into the second split of the season at Neosho Wildlife Area, KDWPT officials are reporting extremely difficult hunting conditions.

“These birds are the same birds that have been here since the last week of October,” the report reads. “Birds are extremely nocturnal and stale.”

In northwestern Kansas, Matt Farmer at Jamestown Wildlife Area reports that duck and goose numbers are well below average. “We’re nowhere near where we should be at this time of the year in northern Kansas,” says Farmer. “We had a decent push of mallards around Christmas, but the hunting was really spotty. At this point, we just need some more weather up north.”