POPULATION NUMBERS AND MIGRATION
A number of population and harvest surveys are conducted annually that are utilized in the development of waterfowl management programs and regulations. To view data for Kansas and the Central Flyway, click here
For current waterfowl numbers on Kansas wildlife areas during the fall and winter, click here
Light Geese - Light geese include greater and lesser snow geese and Ross’ geese. Lesser snow and Ross’ geese are the birds that concern the mid-continent region of the country, and Kansas in particular. Anyone who has an interest in waterfowl has likely heard of the problem of overabundant light geese and the damage they are inflicting on their Arctic breeding grounds. Such habitat destruction threatens not only light geese, but a host other species that utilize the Arctic environment.
The population objective for the Mid-Continent Population of Light Geese, those light geese important to Kansas, is 1 to 1.5 million, as measured during the Mid-winter Survey. The Mid-Continent Population began bumping against the upper limit of this objective in the late 1970s and surpassed it in 1986, never to return. Winter survey estimates peaked at nearly 3,080,000 light geese in 1998. Since then total population numbers appear to have stabilized, or even begun a slight decline. However, it is known that many geese are not observed and reported during this survey, and its results provide trend information only, not total numbers of birds in existence. Some researchers, using other estimation methods, have estimated a total light goose population in the neighborhood of eight million birds.
Within Kansas, light geese usually begin arriving in force during early November, and often peak during November or early December at somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 birds. Large numbers are regularly present in Kansas during February and March, but often do not orient to state and federal management areas, where counts are conducted. Despite this, counts in excess of several hundred thousand are not unusual at any time during the fall, winter, or spring periods.
In the past most light geese were oriented to the eastern third of Kansas. However, during recent years there have been light goose build-ups in the Central part of our state. Most of these birds are located on the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, and Cheyenne Bottoms, Lovewell, Jamestown and Glen Elder Waterfowl Areas. This distribution shift became noticeable during the fall of 2000, and really grabbed attention during the fall of 2002, when these five areas averaged 233 thousand light geese, and peaked at 321 thousand during the fall and early winter period.
White-fronted Geese – The estimated numbers of white-fronted geese in the Mid-Continent population steadily increased from less than 100,000 during the early 1970’s, to over 500,000 in the fall of 1996. Since that time the population has stabilized, or possibly declined slightly.
Migration of whitefronts into Kansas begins early in the fall, with some birds arriving in late September and early October. Greatest numbers usually occur during late November or early December, when 200,000 to 300,000 are often observed. The number of white-fronted geese stopping and spending time in Kansas took a dramatic jump in 1997, when a total of 638,887 were reported during the 14 bi-weekly surveys conducted on our Management Areas. This total was more than double that reported during any previous year since 1970.
Canada Geese – Objectives of the various populations of Canada geese common to the Central Flyway are based on the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey, conducted each January. Since 2002, the total number of Canada geese observed in the 10 Central Flyway states during this survey has exceeded 1,600,000 birds. All populations are at, or well above, established objectives.
The small Canada geese important to Kansas hunters belong primarily to the Tall Grass Prairie Population, which has an objective of 250,000. During January 2004 nearly 459,000 were reported from Central Flyway States. The geese most important to Kansas hunters are the large Canada’s belonging to the Great Plains/Western Prairie Population, which has a Mid-Winter Survey objective of 150,000 to 285,000. During the 2004 Mid-Winter Survey, 622,000 of these large geese were reported. This population continues to maintain these high numbers despite the liberal 95 day season with a bag limit of 3 birds that has been in place since 1998.
Canada geese nest in Kansas and are present throughout the year. However, migrant Canada’s begin entering the state in appreciable numbers in late October, when the small Canada’s begin arriving. The big push of large Canada’s usually occurs in late November, with peak numbers of 300,000 to 450,000 birds occurring during the first half of December. The timing of the Canada goose migration varies considerable from year to year, depending on weather in Kansas and states to the north.