2022 North Dakota Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 81,000 Canada geese in the state.

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said that number likely would have been higher, but snow and bitterly cold weather in late December undoubtedly pushed some birds south just prior to the survey.

“The number of waterfowl recorded dropped substantially from last year’s survey, but that was a relatively mild winter with little snow accumulation,” Dinges said.

In addition, Lake Sakakawea didn’t officially freeze over until Jan. 24 last year, which was the latest date on record.

“Despite recent weather we are still wintering a good number of waterfowl this year and conditions remain fair for wintering birds, unless we get too much snow accumulation,” Dinges said.

During the survey, an estimated 55,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 21,100 on Nelson Lake in Oliver County. Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 7,000 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake. Lake Sakakawea officially froze over just a few days before the survey this year.

The 10-year average (2012-21) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 123,100 Canada geese and 24,700 mallards.

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