Waterfowl Migration Update November 27, 2013

A series of sharp cold fronts over the past 10 days pushed some of the waterfowl migration further south as water began to freeze up across areas of the upper midwest and central plains. The colder weather and north winds have brought good success to hunters across much of the country, but temperatures look to rebound slightly as we move through the weekend.

Duck Migration

After above normal temperatures a week ago, the first in a pair of arctic cold fronts swept across the country from Canada starting last Thursday. Temperatures dropped 20-40 degrees in most locations and a strong north/northwest wind accompanied the front. Water sources began freezing quickly across the Dakota’s, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska. As the front continued south, small bodies of water locked up across Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. Early migrators such as teal, pintails, and gadwall have made their way into southern Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, southern Missouri, and Arkansas. The leading edge of the large numbers of mallards have migrated into Nebraska, Missouri, and northern Illinois. Over 1 millions ducks have been surveyed across the managed areas in Missouri with 3/4th’s of them being mallards. In Illinois, the waterfowl migration seems to be sticking close to the rivers thus limiting the number of waterfowl surveyed across areas such and Rend Lake and Carlyle Lake. Their numbers have been dramatically lower compared to past years while the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have been above average. Will those trends change is the question as we enter the heart of the waterfowl migration.

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Migration Survey

Illinois River Waterfowl Migration Survey

Mississippi River Waterfowl Migration Survey

You hear waterfowl hunters talk about the stages of the migration. There are calendar, ice, and snow line waves. The calendar birds have migrated their way into southern parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and into Arkansas. The ice line Waterfowl Migration Snow Cover 11-27mallards are stacked across northern Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas, but then there is a large gap until you get to the snow birds. Snow cover is limited in most areas all the way into North Dakota. Even though small bodies of water are frozen solid across the Dakotas, the Missouri River remains open. The latest survey from South Dakota hasn’t been release yet, but the number of mallards on the river will be staggering. They will continue to ride out the winter there until the river freezes or snow covers the abundant food sources along the river.



Goose Migration

Canada geese have been migrating in daily in areas of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois. The sub-freezing weather has many of them on the move even with the lack of snow cover in many places to the north. This year, we’ve seen the furthest southward push this early in a number of years. While the amount of snow cover isn’t abundant, dark geese still seem to be on the move. Hopefully this is a sign they know what winter has in store and they will continue to migrate south.


Snow Goose/Specklebelly Migration

Snow geese continue to be spread across much of the country all the way from the Dakotas to Arkansas. There are pockets of larger concentration all throughout the migration while specks have been noted across Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. This past weekend, southern Illinois and southeast Missouri picked up a large influx of migrating specklebellies.


The Week Ahead

The temperatures look to moderate over the next 7 days as the weather pattern reloads. Look for some frozen water to thaw by the middle of next week and waterfowl may scatter as new resources become available. The next weather system appears to start effecting the central plains by next Tuesday.  As always, the weather will warm ahead of the system, then a sharp cool down as the low pressure moves through. For waterfowl hunters across the central part of the US, the amount of snow accompanying the system will determine how many waterfowl will migrate.

Waterfowl Migration Update November 15, 2013

A large arctic front moved across the country earlier this week and spurred a good waterfowl migration in many areas, but some places were left wondering where the ducks are. The front, which dropped temperatures 20-30 degrees in many places began it’s push south on Sunday. Not much precipitation was involved, but the drop in temperatures and strong north winds pushed many waterfowl south.

Duck Migration

The bulk of the good reports came from the central flyway where many teal, shovelors, gadwall, pintails, divers and even early mallards were reported moving into Nebraska, Kansas, western Missouri, and Oklahoma. Large concentrations of mallards made a move from southern Canada and North Dakota into South Dakota. Most water sources in North Dakota and Canada are predominantly frozen, but this weekend’s warmup could open some water back up briefly before another system ushers colder temperatures back in.

Across the Mississippi flyway, little ducks and divers made moves in Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas. We hunted the Missouri River in central Missouri and saw numerous flight birds the first couple hours of the morning, but then they stopped. With the approaching full moon, many ducks decided to migrate Tuesday night under clear skies. This left many hunters wondering why they didn’t see a migration. The ducks did migrate, just not during the day when it could have been noticed. The Illinois River Valley, which was holding over 800,000 ducks drop nearly 300,000 birds this week. The “mass exodus” was even captured on radar as pointed out by the biologist that surveys locations across Illinois. Larger numbers of mallards are currently in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Illinois Survey Biologist’s Blog

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Migration Survey

Illinois River Waterfowl Migration Survey

The Mississippi River survey has not been updated as of 11/15/2013

Missouri habitat and waterfowl survey

Snow Goose/Specklebelly Migration

Lots of reports of snow geese arriving in Arkansas have come in this week. They took advantage of the strong north winds behind the front and made their way south. These are leading edge birds and the rest of the snow goose migration is strung all the way north into the Dakotas. As the weather gets colder, these large concentration will continue their trek south through Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

Goose Migration

The large numbers of Canada geese are located across the Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Some of the early migrators were seen in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois. The areas they’ve entered tended to be their stopping point the last couple years. In order to get the goose migration further south, we need sustained cold temperatures and snow to cover their food source.

Next Week’s Weather

The weather this week looks seasonal after a brief cool down behind a cold front on Sunday and Monday. Just like the last front, this one looks to not have a lot of moisture in the cold sector with it which will limit the snowfall potential. Strong north and northwest winds will accompany the backside and coupled with the full moon, some waterfowl could migrate, but we don’t expect a large movement of birds over the course of the next week.

Snow Goose Migration Update – April 8, 2013

Snow Goose Migration

These snow goose migration updates are starting to sound like a broken record! A brief warm-up followed by snow that pushes some snow geese back south while others continue to stage in the same areas. For the fourth or fifth time this spring, a snow storm is taking aim across migration corridors. Many snow geese are currently located across South Dakota and some have begun to push into North Dakota. The brief warm-up late last week and into this past weekend and helped the snow recede further north, but a fresh blanket of the white stuff will soon replace it.

Snow Goose Migration

Snow Goose Hunting

Over the weekend, there were many reports of the snow goose migration beginning to push in North Dakota. Nearly all of South Dakota and nearly a third of North Dakota became free of snow cover and the snow geese are eager to continue their trek north. The series of winter storms that has hit over the past two months has the snow goose migration way behind schedule and the birds know it. They’re taking advantage of every opportunity they can to push north. Instead of staging just under the snow line, a lot of birds this year have been hanging in the southern edge. When the snow has hit and bodies of water have frozen, they’ve pushed to the rivers where they have open water for roosting and they’re feeding on hilltops and south facing slopes that offer less snow cover over food sources. This was first noted during the snow goose migration in mid-February when a snow storm hit Missouri. Instead of the vast majority of snow geese pushing back into the southern part of the state and Arkansas, many birds pushed into the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Even with covered food sources, they rode out the storm by roosting on the open water on and near the rivers and feeding in areas with the least snow cover. This will continue as the snow geese are reluctant to loselatitude in their return trip north.


Starting on Tuesday, snow will begin falling across areas of southern North Dakota on into central South Dakota. Locations look to pick up as much as a foot of snow. This make for difficult snow goose hunting conditions, but if you’re braving the elements, look for good concentrations of birds along the larger river systems. Field conditions right now are extremely muddy and will only get worse after the next round of snow begins to melt.

Snow Goose Migration Update – April 1, 2013

The snow goose migration continues to be behind schedule thanks to a delayed onset of spring weather. Continued below normal temperatures in the northern plains and a substantial snow pack have the snow goose migration locked up over portions of South Dakota. In the next week, spring like weather looks to settle into areas of South Dakota and Nebraska which should get snow geese trying to head north, but a substantial snow pack remains across North Dakota.

Snow Goose MigrationHunters have continued to report success over many areas of South Dakota. The snow goose migration has balled up in areas across I-90 as they stage just south of the snow line. Birds are still being reported across Western Iowa and Nebraska, but they should make a sizable push northward in the next week as temperatures in these areas reach into the mid 60s in the later part of the week. Portions of South Dakota will likely experience much of the same warmth and the state could be completely snow free by the weekend. Further north in North Dakota, many areas in the eastern half of the state are still buried under 12+ inches of snow. Much of this snow pack continued south into northeast South Dakota, but not much remains. This portion of snow cover that lingered in South Dakota pushed much of the snow goose migration further west across central portions of the state. The amount of snow that remains in North Dakota is larger across the eastern portion of the state. Look for the  migration to continue it’s push north through the central part of North Dakota as the snow disappears quicker.


Snow Goose Migration Update – March 8, 2013

Spring is about to finally show itself and the snow goose migration should push north in a major way over the next week. Snows are already being reported moving north in large numbers. These areas have snow now, but by the end of the weekend, the snow line will recede well to the north.

Snow Goose Migration Snow CoverOver the course of the past week, we’ve seen the bulk of the snow goose migration move from southern Missouri and Illinois into west-central Illinois and northwest Missouri. After being pushed south due to the snow, snow geese are looking to make up for lost time and ground. As of March 4, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge reported just over 275,000, but last night they reported they were over the 1 million mark. Birds are also being reported moving into southeast South Dakota and all over the rainwater basins of Nebraska. The snow line, for now, has a lot of snow geese trapped in central Illinois. There are reports of 6-10 inches of snow still on the ground in the western part of the state. The warm-up this weekend should cut into the snowpack and give the snow geese a chance to continue their trek. Guide services are all over northwest Missouri and they should do well in the coming week to 10 days. With the snow cover fading fast, open ground from Squaw into central South Dakota, and warm temperatures on the way, the snow goose migration should move quickly over the next week. They are behind schedule, they know it, and will be looking to make up for lost time.

With the exception of a weekend storm system that will move across the central US and midwest, temperatures look to be above normal. Typically if you’re experiencing above normal temperatures, that means you have a south wind of some sorts. Areas in South Dakota will even be in the 50’s next week. If you’re a snow goose hunter between I-70 and I-80, it’s time! North of I-80 will be a ton of adults for now, but with the forecast it won’t be long.