On a recent cold and wintery January morning, staff and volunteers with Fish and Game, Magic Valley Region, spent the morning estimating the number of waterfowl using the many ponds at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area. This annual one-day count has been used for several decades to show population trends of waterfowl using the spring-fed ponds along the Snake River during winter months.
Fish and Game biologists estimate waterfowl numbers at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area during the annual bird count in January 2020.
Established in 1940, the 882-acre Hagerman Wildlife Management Area was the first wildlife management area designated in Idaho. Its primary purpose was, and is, to provide wintering waterfowl habitat as these birds migrate through the Pacific Flyway.
This past January there were an estimated 25,000 ducks and 2,000 geese on the ponds, with the overwhelming majority of ducks being mallards and nearly all geese being Canada geese. The counts in 2019 estimated approximately 35,000 ducks and 3,700 geese on the wildlife management area.
Why are the waterfowl counts different this year?
Winter weather in 2020 has been mild, leaving many of the rivers and ponds across southern Idaho ice-free. With an abundance of open water, waterfowl can find many different places to rest and feed, keeping them from congregating at higher numbers on the management area ponds.
When winter conditions are more severe and ice covers a higher percentage of ponds and other waters across the Magic Valley, the ponds on the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area normally do not completely ice-over, this is due to the consistent 50-degree spring water feeding the ponds.
Thousands of ducks and geese rest and feed at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area each winter.
Diversity of waterfowl
When agency biologists count the numbers of waterfowl using the area, they do so by species. In 2020, 15 species of ducks were identified, including gadwalls, American wigeon, Northern shoveler, ring-necked ducks, buffleheads, and ruddy ducks. Two species of geese were found which included Canada and Greater white-fronted geese. This year, a single tundra swan was also seen amongst the thousands of ducks, both tundra and trumpeter swans frequent Hagerman Wildlife Management Area in winter.
Counting waterfowl on the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area ponds in early January 2020.
For more information about the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area please call the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 or visit our webpage at www.idfg.idaho.gov/wma/hagerman .