Seasonal population levels, breeding and hunting of waterfowl on the New River, Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


A 15 mile portion of the New River was censused by canoe 33 times over a 1 year period. Species and number of waterfowl were recorded for each operation.

A total of 16 species were observed, including 8 species of diving ducks, 7 species of dabbling ducks and 1 species of goose. Species diversity was highest in February and March and lowest in the summer months.

Mallards were sighted more frequently than any other species, followed by the wood duck and the black duck. The most abundant diving ducks were scaup, bufflehead and common goldeneye. Peak numbers of waterfowl were sighted during December; the lowest numbers during the summer. Diving ducks reached their peak in terms of number of species and number of individuals during the winter period; buffleheads were the third most abundant species. Number of ducks and species diversity dropped during the spring period. Mallards and wood ducks were the only species present during the summer. Brood sightings consisted entirely of wood ducks with an observed production index of 2.9 young per river mile. The author believes 16.6 to be a more accurate estimate of this production index.

Hunters responding to questionnaires bagged an average of 9.10 ducks per man during the season, considerably higher than the state average. Mallards comprised 38 percent of the total kill.

The author concluded that western Virginia waterways are important to waterfowl as wintering habitat. Furthermore, wood duck breeding in Virginia makes a substantial contribution to the flyway population.