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Wisconsin waterfowl surveys

Spring waterfowl survey

Spring survey overview

Decisions regarding hunting season structure and harvest limits in waterfowl management have a long history of being based in part upon spring breeding pair surveys. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey has been conducted for 63 years across the traditional survey area of the north-central United States, Canada and Alaska. The Wisconsin Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey, which is modeled after the continental survey, has been conducted for 45 years and provides a long-term measure of waterfowl breeding trends in Wisconsin. This data is used at the national and state levels for monitoring waterfowl populations and making management decisions.

USFWS spring survey results

Mississippi River Fall survey

These numbers do not reflect the actual population of waterfowl represented in the individual pools that were surveyed. This data represents only a sample of the population, determined by flying individual transects. The purpose of sampling utilizing transects is to gauge a subset of the population, then the model to extrapolate the population by species.

2022 Surveys

The 2022 surveys were discontinued due to weather conditions and the ability to safely complete low-level flights during the identified survey periods of mid-October and November. For more information on fall waterfowl numbers around the state, including the Mississippi River, please see our Notes from the Field section and the statewide early-November report [PDF].

2020 and 2021 Surveys

Due to COVID-19 Restrictions, the 2020 and 2021 Mississippi River Fall surveys were not conducted.

2017-2019 Survey Report

2019 Surveys

2018 Surveys

2017 Surveys

Historical data

Survey methodology

Strip transects are flown in Mississippi River Pools 4-14, 45 m above ground and at 90 knots. Two observers survey each side of the plane and count all waterfowl, which includes ducks, geese and swans, for a total distance of 400 meters.

Mississippi River contact information

If you have any questions, call Brenda Kelly
Mississippi River Wildlife Biologist.
Bureau of Wildlife Management

Green Bay Fall survey

2023 Surveys

2022 Surveys

2021 Surveys

2020 Surveys

Due to COVID-19 Restrictions, the 2020 Green Bay Fall survey was not conducted.

2019 Surveys

2018 Surveys

2017 Surveys

Survey methodology

Transects were flown 60 m above ground at approximately 90 knots parallel to the east and west shores with nearshore and offshore transect lines. All waterfowl were counted and recorded to species to the best of the observer's abilities.


Notes from the Field

Northwest Wisconsin

Northeast Wisconsin

Southwest Wisconsin

Southeast Wisconsin

Provide your observations

This survey is designed for hunters to provide information on their hunting experience throughout the waterfowl hunting seasons in Wisconsin. Information gathered from this survey will help the department improve its abilities to actively manage waterfowl populations and improve the hunting experience for waterfowl hunters. Hunters can directly provide feedback to the department to help inform future hunting season structures and recommendations by submitting their thoughts.

You may take this survey as many times as you want throughout the season

Mid-winter waterfowl survey

Mid-winter survey overview

The Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey is a nationwide effort to survey waterfowl in areas of a major concentration on their wintering grounds and provide winter distribution and habitat affiliations. This survey also serves as a primary source of data on population trends for some species that breed in remote Arctic locations and are difficult to survey using traditional methods. Therefore, abundance indices for some of these species are obtained from surveys of wintering areas. For species not covered in other population surveys, these indices provide direct inputs into management programs such as harvest management plans.

Mid-winter survey results

2019 Survey
2018 Survey
Historical data

Waterfowl hunter survey

This report presents the results of a statewide survey of Wisconsin resident waterfowl hunters and conservation patron license holders regarding their waterfowl hunting behaviors and opinions regarding various aspects of waterfowl hunting and regulations in Wisconsin. The study was conducted to support the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources's waterfowl management program. This report presents the study findings, interprets the information within pertinent contexts and may identify potentially useful lines of inquiry. This report does not, however, include specific recommendations or policy prescriptions.

2019 Wisconsin hunter survey results
2017 Wisconsin hunter survey results
2015 Wisconsin hunter survey results
2013 Wisconsin hunter survey results

Volunteer with waterfowl banding

About banding

Every year, DNR staff bands 8,000-12,000 migratory game birds. Information gathered from the bird can then be used in developing models that utilize banding and recovery data to predict the impacts of harvest and another take, as well as develop an understanding of environmental factors that drive migratory bird populations. Data collected from each bird can be used to estimate age-, sex-, and species-specific survival probability, harvest rate, derivation of harvest, recovery rate and band reporting rate for each species. The first step in this process is catching, collecting data and banding these birds; that's where volunteers can help.

Do you want to help band waterfowl?

Most banding stations look for volunteers every year who can lend a hand for an hour or two. Waterfowl banding occurs from mid-June to late August in most areas. Please contact Alissa Kakatsch at or 608-576-7559 to learn more about banding opportunities in your area.