Winter Wild Fowl Migration

by Dana Kester-McCabe

During the Winter Wild Fowl Migration over thirty different kinds of ducks, geese and swans spend their winters here. This region was once a wildfowl hunting mecca. Though numbers had been in decline from pesticide use and over hunting, conservation efforts have helped bring them back.

Canada Geese are the first harbingers of cold weather and can be seen everywhere along our marshes and meadows. They are joined later by Snow Geese which make local farm fields look magical.

Both trumpeter and tundra swans visit inland waters each winter. In backwater ponds and streams both dabbling and diving ducks can be found. The mallard of course is a familiar year long resident. But this is also where you will see birds that are more exotic in color and feather styles like the hooded mergansers. With chilly temperatures come the red head ducks, common mergansers, American widgeons, and ring necks.

Canvas backs along with Buffleheads are very common in freshwaters and in the open saltwater bays and inlets. That is where you can also look for eiders, old squaws, sea ducks, and scaup.

Ducks Unlimited ( has interactive migration reports for our area online and via phone apps. Already teal, pintails and wood ducks are being seen in increasing numbers here. Things will continue to heat up peaking in late January and February.

If you have access to a duck blind follow the example of hunters and get there before dawn to see the birds arriving at sunrise to feed. Ducks and geese like cold wet weather so bundle up but don't stay home if it rains.

If sitting in a duck blind is not your thing, some great places to see wildfowl in large numbers and variety include the bayside trails and observation decks at Assateague Island National Seashore, Isle O Wight Park, and at public boat landings along the Pocomoke River, and our inland bays. Not far away are the Blackwater refuge in Cambridge, Maryland, and the Bombay Hook refuge east of Dover, Delaware. Both provide great driving views of mass quantities of migrating birds.

Backwater Ponds & Streams
American Black Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Common Merganser
Eurasian Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Mute Swan
Northern Pintail
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck

Saltwater Bays & Inlets
American Black Duck
Black Scoter
Common Eider
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Greater Scaup
Harlequin Duck
King Eider
Lesser Scaup
Northern Shoveler
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter

Marshes & Meadows
Canada Goose
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Greater White-fronted Goose
Ross's Goose
Snow Goose

Ducks Unlimited - Waterfowl Migration Reports

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