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Texas Waterfowl Numbers Tank

Discussion in 'Texas Flyway Forum' started by AvianQuest, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. AvianQuest

    AvianQuest Elite Refuge Member Flyway Manager

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    This is something I’ve been harping on for decades, often with tons of push back from folks who refused to see what was coming.

    The annual Texas Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey is the gold standard for how successful our waterfowl hunting seasons should be. By this point of each season pretty much all of the birds that are going to be here are here and typically any late migration flights that come down due to harsh weather up north are offset by us losing birds that fly into Mexico because of the combination of cold and poor habitat conditions.

    Starting with geese, back in 2000 we had 1,000,000 light geese, 330,000 white-fronted geese and 75,000 Canada geese. But the 2018 survey that has just been conducted only found 191,000 light geese, 17,000 white-fronted geese and no Canada geese. In all we have lost 90% of the geese that once wintered here.

    Ducks fared no better with 3,030,000 birds compared with 6,120,000, a loss of 50% from last year. The coastal region which traditionally held the most ducks had just 521,000 birds, 76% fewer than last year and only a third of the 22-year average.

    Statewide mallards were down to 366,000, an all-time low and only half of the 22-year average. Redheads, normally at 251,000 dropped to 43,500.

    But the number of hunters on public land continued to set records. Many did well depending on the location and weather, but the East Texas public hunting areas had poor success.

    Hunters blame the increased acreage of rice and/or corn being grown in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Missouri and that certainly is a factor, but of more importance is the dramatic loss of wetland habitat here in Texas. Waterfowl will gravitate to areas that have plenty of food, water and places where they aren’t constantly being disturbed from heavy hunting pressure or development.

    Rice, once an important food for waterfowl is far less of a draw today here in Texas. Our rice production is down over 70%, mainly due to the high cost of irrigation water and the fact that the farmers can’t always depend on getting water in many areas of the state. Even so, it used to be that the harvesting of fields left significant amounts of waste grain being left on the ground. But improved strains of rice and the newer, more efficient, combines have resulted in very little rice left in the fields.
     
  2. jzee

    jzee Elite Refuge Member

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    With everything going on in today’s world, I can not believe that people have a hard time believing that, the people who get paid to count ducks might be stretching the truth. I feel for you guys in Texas, but your not alone, it’s the same story boarder to boarder. I’ve been around long enough to remember the point system, 30 day season, 3 bird limits, lead, and birds.

    The only people who will tell you there’s more birds now, are either getting paid to, or looking to get paid.
     
  3. AvianQuest

    AvianQuest Elite Refuge Member Flyway Manager

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    The USFWS does the population survey in the breeding area up north in the spring. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does the min-winter count in Texas.

    Both groups of biologists go to huge efforts and expense to get it as right as possible. There is nothing to gain from being off either way.
     
  4. Thirstyswimmer

    Thirstyswimmer New Member

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    Any chance the low numbers seen could have been a result of the Hurricane? Or at least partially? I don't know how much of our rice, corn, etc was wiped out by the monster, but I know that with the amount of flooding we received that many areas were stripped clean of vegetation.
    Just a hopeful thought.
     
  5. AvianQuest

    AvianQuest Elite Refuge Member Flyway Manager

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    Yes, most of the rice fields in the coastal areas were wiped out and a lot of natural vegetation was killed from being under water for too long.

    But a lot of it is long term habitat loss due to development from 3,000 people a day, every day of the year, moving here for jobs, and the fact Texas doesn't have an income tax or estate tax.

    This was some prime waterfowl habitat on the Katy Prairie...

    [​IMG]

    Now the same spot looks like this...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
  6. Thirstyswimmer

    Thirstyswimmer New Member

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    I absolutely agree about the long term habitat loss being detrimental to ducks. We can't afford anymore habitat loss in Texas.

    Im just hoping the Hurricane accounts for the majority of this year's decline, and that numbers will rebound next year. (Or at least rebound as much as is possible with the continued habitat loss.)
     
  7. bzzboyz

    bzzboyz Elite Refuge Member

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