Migratory Bird Management
Alaska Region



North American Breeding Waterfowl Survey in Alaska

Alaska survey flightlines. USFWS

Major breeding populations of ducks and other waterbirds have been surveyed by aircraft in Alaska every spring since 1957 as part of the North American Waterfowl Breeding Pair Survey. The survey team in Alaska consists of a pilot and an observer. The pilot is not only responsible for flying the aircraft but also for identifying and counting birds as he zips along at 100 mph, 150 ft above the ground. The survey consists of a series of flightlines (blue lines in above map), throughout Alaska's wetlands, that are really transects or rectangular plots 400 meters wide, each person observing 200 meters from their side. The survey is flown from mid-May to mid-June each year when waterfowl are nesting. The team uses tape recorders to record its observations then transcribes the data into computers in the evenings. So by the end of the survey all the data are in the computer and can be summarized. By estimating the number of ducks seen each year, duck populations can be tracked to see if they are increasing or decreasing. The results are available in a timely manner for use in developing annual hunting regulations. In the late 1980's we began doing EXPANDED BREEDING PAIR SURVEYS on some of the wetlands. We increased the number of flightlines and located them systematically to see if we could improve population estimates and to be able to map the distribution of the various species.

Alaska - Yukon Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey - 2011 (pdf)

Last Updated: May 14, 2012