Waterfowl Migration Update December 5, 2013

A strong cold front is moving across the country with a pair of low pressure systems bringing a mix of wintery weather across much of the country. The wind, falling temperatures, and snow has waterfowl migrating hard across much of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. It’s not going to be a matter of will they migrate, it’s where will they stop.

Duck Migration

Starting on Tuesday, this system began to enter the Dakotas where many ducks were still present. Two to twelve inches of snow fell across the area and temperatures are in the teens to below zero. Last week, we talked about the abundance of mallards on the Missouri River in South Dakota. Nearly 900,000 ducks were surveyed there on November 26th. The latest survey from December 2 counted over 573,000 ducks. This survey was before the storm hit and from the reports out of Nebraska are numerous high flocks of mallards southbound. By next week, there should be very few ducks left in the Dakotas. When all is said and done with this first storm, the snow line will be from western Nebraska through southern Minnesota, and Wisconsin. A second band of snow and ice will be across Oklahoma, southerm Missouri/Illinois, and northern Arkansas.


Projected Snow Cover by Saturday December 7th

The arctic front associated with this system is currently across Arkansas, Tennessee, and western Ohio. Most locations in northern Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, and Illinois will not climb above freezing for the foreseeable future. A second system looks to drop snow across Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and northern Illinois starting on Sunday bringing the snow line even further south. The way things are setting up, there could be a gap in the snow field or at least an area where snow cover is at a minimum from north-central Illinois through western Missouri and into southeast Kansas. The waterfowl migration will be in full swing over the course of the next week.


Projected Snowcover by Monday December, 9th.

Projected Snowcover by Monday December 9th.

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Migration Survey

Illinois River Waterfowl Migration Survey

Mississippi River Waterfowl Migration Survey

Missouri Waterfowl Habitat Discussion


Goose Migration

Large number of dark geese have been migrating through the Central Flyway. Migrating geese have been noted in the same locations as the ducks. Geese are more apt to ride out cold weather and snow as long as they have a food source. Look for some, but not all to come out of the Dakotas, central Minnesota and central Wisconsin. By next week, look for geese to be in good numbers across Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and into central Illinois.

Snow Goose/Specklebelly Migration

Just as the ducks and dark geese have been migrating, so have the light geese. Large numbers have been noted across Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. The cold weather should continue to move them south into Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisianna.

The Coming Week

The question is where will everything end up after these two systems are done? River and field hunting across much of the middle of the country should be great. If there is open water and minimal snow cover there will be ducks. The cold weather will continue to lock up bodies of water and where snow has fallen, it will likely stick around. By early next week, even larger lakes should start to freeze up. Feeding patterns should be easy to figure out due to the cold weather and field hunting will be hot as waterfowl need the carbs for energy. If you are a duck or goose hunter this next week could be filled with lots of birds and little sleep!