Waterfowl include ducks, geese, and swans, and they are migratory birds that move south to winter and north in the spring to breed. Most North American waterfowl breed in Canada and the northern tier of the United States in small ponds or lakes called Potholes. The hens nest on the ground and are extremely vulnerable during this time.
Annually, predation can dramatically impact the production of young. The amount of snow and rain effects the quality and quantity of breeding habitat (nesting edge), which ultimately effects production also.
During the 1970's, the United States enjoyed high waterfowl populations due to abundant rainfall on the breeding grounds. During the 1980's and early 1990's, general habitat quality declined, and nesting quality and quantity due to low water conditions, resulting in extremely low waterfowl populations.
Since 1993, water conditions have improved, and habitat conditions in the lower 48 states have received much needed attention, due to efforts among various partners in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Conservation partners have included organizations such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (with responsibility for all migratory birds), state wildlife and fishery agencies, Ducks Unlimited, and private organizations. With the increased nesting habitat and more intensive management, waterfowl populations responded and have reached all-time high population numbers, based on estimates and indices provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Canada Geese have been transplanted across the southern U.S. and protected over the past several decades. Their numbers have increased to the point that in many areas bag limits are being increased almost annually to keep their numbers in check. In specific areas (golf courses, lawns, farm ponds) they are becoming a nuisance.
Snow Geese have increased almost exponentially in numbers during this same time. During the past few years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have become increasingly concerned with the burgeoning populations. Farmers in the major flyways are incurring moderate to severe crop damage during the annual migration, and geese are severely impacting vegetation and nesting habitat on the breeding grounds. With overpopulated habitat there is the increasing likelihood for a major die off due to disease or other factors related to nutrition. Special seasons, bag limits, and methods of harvest have been and likely will continue to be utilized with snow and similar geese.
Some ducks reside year round in the Southeast. For example, the Wood Duck is one of three migratory waterfowl species that nest regularly in Mississippi. These most colorful birds are one of the more abundant ducks in Mississippi, and along with the Mallard, make up a sizable portion of Mississippi hunter's bag.