Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 90,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said North Dakota experienced relatively mild weather in fall and early winter, but a few harsh cold fronts in early November and mid-December pushed some birds south for winter.

“Particularly, the cold snap we experienced during the first and second weeks of November moved a lot of birds south of us earlier than normal and we struggled to build up great numbers after this,” Dinges said.

During the recent survey, an estimated 50,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 17,500 were observed on Lake Sakakawea, which still had substantial open water on the lower portion of the lake. In addition, about 22,500 Canada geese were observed on Nelson Lake in Oliver County.

Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 4,200 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake.

Lake Sakakawea officially iced-over Jan. 11, just days after the aerial survey was completed.

The 10-year average (2010-19) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 100,500 Canada geese and 22,000 mallards.

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once.