Waterfowl survey list

Waterfowl surveys table
Monitoring program Volunteer participation Volunteer skill level Seasonal coverage Geographic coverage in Canada
Banding Programs No Not available Breeding NT, BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC
Canada Goose Breeding Pair Surveys No Not available Breeding NU, MB, ON, QC
Common Eider Winter Survey No Not available Wintering QC, NL
Long-term Nesting Studies of Geese and Seaducks No and Yes Intermediate and advanced Breeding NU, MB, SK
Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey No Not available Wintering ON
National Harvest Survey (NHS) Yes (Participants are randomly selected but response is voluntary) Hunters with a valid Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit Spring and fall migration, wintering Canada
North American Trumpeter Swan Survey Yes (ON only) All Breeding YT, NT, BC, AB, ON
Regional Waterfowl Surveys Yes and No Intermediate and advanced Breeding, Spring migration YT, ON
Species at Risk Surveys (Waterfowl) Yes and No Various Various Various
Snow Goose and Ross's Goose Population Surveys No Not available Breeding, Spring migration, wintering BC, NT, NU, MB, ON, QC
Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey No Not available Breeding YT, NT, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE, NL

Banding programs

Inland ducks have been banded in Canada since the 1900s. Ducks are caught on their breeding grounds, at the end of the breeding season, when they swim into baited traps. Professional biologists carefully extract the ducks from the trap, band each duck on one leg, collect information about age, sex, and species, and then quickly release them. This program targets multiple species of adult and juvenile ducks. During the hunting season, if a hunter shoots a banded duck, they are encouraged to report it to Environment and Climate Change Canada's Bird Banding Office. Researchers use the information from banded ducks to assess survival rates, harvest rates and distribution. Data also feed into harvest management decisions.

Arctic goose banding programs have occurred in Canada since the 1950s. Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens), Ross' Geese (Chen rossii), Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii), Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons), and Brant (Branta bernicla) are banded on their northern breeding grounds. Additionally, Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are banded on their subarctic and temperate breeding grounds. To band geese, the birds are carefully herded into an enclosure during the post-breeding season when the adults are moulting their flight feathers and before the young can fly. Professional biologists place uniquely numbered metal bands around the leg of these birds to allow the differentiation of individuals. A small proportion of geese are also fitted with highly visible plastic neck collars; these are ideal for research programs that require individuals be discernible from afar. If someone encounters a banded bird, they are encouraged to report it to Environment and Climate Change Canada's Bird Banding Office. Researchers use the information from banded geese to assess survival rates, harvest rates, migration movements, and distribution. Data also feed into harvest management decisions.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available
For more information, visit
Université Laval's Greater Snow Goose Demographic Studies page

The United States Geological Survey's Bird Banding Lab's Pre-hunting Season Duck Banding page and Flyways.us' Pre-season Duck Banding page.

Canada Goose Breeding Pair Surveys

Professional biologists have conducted annual aerial surveys of adult Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on their breeding grounds in northern Manitoba since 1972, in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario since 1989, in northern Quebec since 1993, and on Akimiski Island, which is part of Nunavut, since 1990. During the mid- to late incubation period, an aircraft flies transects over suitable breeding habitat and adult geese are counted. Data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available

Common Eider Winter Survey

Since 2003, the Common Eider Winter Survey has been conducted every three years by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service. When ice cover is at its maximum, usually in the first two weeks of February, observers count Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima borealis) from a small plane. The study area comprises the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence, including the portions in Quebec (North Shore, Anticosti Island, Magdalen Islands and the Gaspé Peninsula), Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, France. Data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available

Long-term Nesting Studies of Geese and Seaducks

Professional biologists have collected information about laying date, hatch date, clutch size, and nest density of nesting geese at various locations throughout the Arctic and Hudson Bay Lowlands. Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) have been monitored at La Pérouse Bay and the Cape Churchill region of Manitoba since 1968. Greater Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens atlanticus) have been monitored at Bylot Island, Nunavut, since 1989. Lesser Snow Geese and Ross' Geese (Chen rossii) have been monitored in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Nunavut, since 1991. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and Lesser Snow Geese have been monitored on Akimiski Island, Nunavut, since 1993. These data feed into harvest management decisions.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available
For more information, visit
Université Laval's Greater Snow Goose Monitoring on Bylot Island page.

Professional biologists, with volunteer assistance, have collected information about laying date, hatch date, clutch size, and nest success of King Eiders (Somateria spectabilis) and Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) at Karrak Lake, Nunavut, since 1995 and 1998, respectively. White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca) have been studied at Redberry Lake and Thickwood Hills, Saskatchewan, since 2000. In addition to the estimation of breeding parameters, nesting hens and local ducklings are marked and recaptured, providing information on local population dynamics, annual survival, and recruitment. These data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Intermediate and advanced birders who are willing to work in remote areas.
For more information, contact
dana.kellett@ec.gc.ca

Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey

Operating in the United States since 1935, the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey is the oldest, continuously-running waterfowl survey in North America. Every January, professional biologists identify and count wintering waterfowl from planes, boats and vehicles. The survey was extended into Mexico in 1947 and along the Great Lakes in Ontario in 1987. The survey is coordinated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. state agencies, with involvement in Canada from Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, Long Point Waterfowl, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Data feed into harvest management decisions.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available
For more information, visit the
USFWS' Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey page

National Harvest Survey (NHS)

Started in the late 1960s, the National Harvest Survey documents the annual harvest of waterfowl and other migratory game birds, as well as trends in hunter activity across Canada. Coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, data from hunters are used to determine the geographic distribution of the hunt and to estimate the number of birds of each species that are harvested each year. Supplemental surveys are undertaken to estimate the numbers of geese harvested during the Snow Goose Spring Conservation Hunt, a special conservation measure put in place to control overabundant snow geese. Data feed into harvest management decisions.

Volunteer:
Yes (Participants are randomly selected, but response is voluntary).
Requirements to participate:
Hunters with a valid Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit who are randomly picked to be part of the survey.
For more information, visit
Environment and Climate Change Canada's National Harvest Survey page.

North American Trumpeter Swan Survey

Begun in 1968, repeated in 1975, and then conducted every five years since, the North American Trumpeter Swan Survey estimates the population size and productivity of Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) from counts on their breeding grounds in Canada and the United States. In British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alberta, professional biologists count adults and young from the air during the late summer. In Ontario, volunteers with the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group conduct a ground-based survey. Across Canada, anyone who sees a banded Trumpeter Swan can report it to Environment and Climate Change Canada's Bird Banding Office and to the Trumpeter Swan Society. The survey is coordinated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, with the help of many other partners.

Volunteer:
Yes (Ontario only)
Requirements to participate:
Volunteers in Ontario can assist the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group with their survey.

Regional Waterfowl Surveys

In 1971, the Canadian Wildlife Service initiated the Southern Ontario Waterfowl and Wetlands Plot Survey to monitor the status and trends of breeding waterfowl populations and their habitat in southern Ontario. The survey consists of 351 plots (0.8 km x 0.8 km). Surveys are primarily ground-based, but some remote locations are surveyed from a helicopter. Data from the survey are used to monitor the population of temperate-breeding Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and early nesting waterfowl in Southern Ontario, and to inform harvest management decisions.

In Quebec, since 2004, the St. Lawrence lowlands have been surveyed by helicopter to estimate abundance, distribution and trends of breeding waterfowl in the St. Lawrence Valley. The survey consists of 100 plots (2 km X 2 km) systematically distributed throughout the 29 000 km2 study area.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available

The Yukon Roadside Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey is an annual ground survey of approximately 280 wetlands that are located along the road system in southern Yukon Territory. Biologists survey each wetland five times between early May and mid-June and record numbers of waterfowl, inland waterbirds, and shorebirds. Coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, it began in 1991.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available

Each spring, waterfowl, especially Trumpeter and Tundra Swans (Cygnus buccinators and C. columbianus), concentrate at several small, accessible migration stop-over sites in the Southern Lakes region of Yukon. These sites become ice-free weeks in advance of other wetlands. Begun in 1986, the Yukon Spring Migration Survey counts birds daily from the ground at the most heavily used location (Marsh Lake, YT), and less often at other sites. Two aerial surveys cover more remote sites and provide photo documentation of ice conditions.

Volunteer:
Yes
Requirements to participate:
Intermediate and advanced birders who are able to identify and count large numbers of waterfowl and waterbirds.

Species at Risk Surveys (Waterfowl)

Environment and Climate Change Canada runs or supports several species-specific surveys and/or monitoring programs for Species at Risk. These programs are generally described in each species' recovery documents, available on the Species at Risk Public Registry (see following links). These programs include the Barrow's Goldeneye Winter Survey (see below) and surveys for the eastern Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus).

Established in 1999, the Barrow's Goldeneye Winter Survey is a helicopter survey that is carried out by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service every three years for the eastern population of Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), a population of special concern. It is conducted when there is significant ice cover, between late January and mid-February, and covers all coastal habitats suitable for the Barrow's Goldeneye in the east, including the St. Lawrence estuary and the eastern portion of Gulf of St. Lawrence (Quebec and the Dalhousie area in New Brunswick). Biologists count Barrow's Goldeneyes, taking care to distinguish them from Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) and Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), species that all look very much alike when seen from the air. Data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available

Snow Goose and Ross's Goose Population Surveys

Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service has been conducting a photo inventory at several of the shared colonies of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and Ross' Geese (Chen rossii) throughout the Canadian Arctic (Banks Island, Queen Maud Gulf region, La Pérouse Bay, Baffin Island, Southampton Island, Cape Henrietta Maria, and Akimiski Island) since 1973. In June, during the middle of the incubation period, biologists fly over the colonies and take photographs to count nesting adults. The inventory is repeated every three to 18 years.

Conducted annually by professional biologists since 1987, the Fraser-Skagit Mid-winter Lesser Snow Goose Count is an aerial photo count of the Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) that winter in the Fraser River delta of British Columbia and the Skagit River delta of Washington State. It is coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Science and Technology Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service, and Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife. The majority of geese that breed on Wrangel Island, Russia, overwinter in this area, so this survey estimates their population size and the number of young that survived to adulthood. Data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Greater Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens atlanticus) have been monitored on their spring staging grounds since 1965. Each spring, aerial photo counts are conducted along a swath comprising eastern Ontario and Lac Champlain, Quebec, to Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec, and Baie des Chaleurs, Quebec, to estimate population size. The entire population of Atlantic Flyway Greater Snow Geese stages in this area. The survey is conducted by professional biologists from Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service. Data are used when setting hunting regulations.

Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service has been monitoring Greater Snow Goose numbers in the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area since 1978. For more information, visit Greater Snow Goose Population Monitoring.

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available
For more information, visit
Université Laval's Greater Snow Goose Monitoring on Bylot Island page.

Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is conducted each spring. The program is coordinated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS). Two main areas are covered: the Traditional Survey Area and the Eastern Survey Area.

The Traditional Survey Area has been surveyed since 1955. This area covers the mid-continent region of Canada, Alaska and northern U.S. states. USFWS employees fly aerial transects to estimate the number of breeding waterfowl, and to assess habitat conditions for waterfowl. The CWS conducts ground surveys along a subset of transects to help correct for observation bias in the aerial surveys and to record more detailed habitat information.

The Eastern Survey Area, which comprises parts of Ontario, Quebec, the Atlantic Provinces and Maine, is surveyed by aerial transects flown by USFWS staff and helicopter plots flown by CWS staff. The helicopter portion of the survey was initiated in 1990; the aerial transect survey was added later. The two survey components were integrated in 2004 to provide a single set of waterfowl estimates for eastern North America. This dual approach allows a more complete coverage of eastern Canada, as well as an observation bias correction.

With the support of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pacific Flyway Council and Ducks Unlimited Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service conducts an annual aerial survey of breeding waterfowl in the Central Interior Plateau of British Columbia. The survey, initiated in 2006, takes place over eight ecoregions, which cover a total of 11 million hectares. The survey is conducted by helicopter. All waterfowl sightings are geo-referenced and associated with a unique habitat type (i.e., stream, wetland, river, lake, agricultural field).

Volunteer:
No
Requirements to participate:
Not available
For more information, visit EC's
Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey page.
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