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2006-07 Migratory Bird Season
Information and Population Status

by Ted Nichols
Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program Biologist
August 10, 2006

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife recently set the state's 2006-07 migratory bird hunting season regulations. Major changes for the upcoming season include the following:

  • New Jersey's HIP certification procedure has changed and a nominal $2.00 fee will be charged. HIP certifications can be obtained via license agents, the division's web site or via telephone.
  • The daily bag limit during the September Canada Goose Season was increased to 15 birds.
  • The pintail and canvasback daily bag limits is one bird each during the duck season.
  • The hooded merganser bag limit was increased to 2 birds.
  • The brant season will be closed during part of the duck season in all zones.
  • Nontoxic shot is required for hunting rail, snipe, and moorhens AT ALL TIMES
  • The daily bag limit for scaup remains at 2 birds per day.

The status of ducks and their habitats in mid-continent and eastern North America are sufficient to justify a liberal duck hunting season framework. In Atlantic Flyway states like New Jersey, this will be the 10th consecutive year with a 60-day duck season.

Sportsmen who are willing to travel will be able to hunt ducks in at least one of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones from October 14, 2006 until January 23, 2007. If hunters also consider Canada geese, rails and snow geese, there will be potential migratory bird hunting opportunity available from September 1 through March 10.

Each year, hunting regulations for migratory birds are developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) after input and consultation with the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyway councils. The flyway councils are comprised of representatives from state and provincial wildlife agencies that work together with the USFWS to cooperatively manage North America's migratory bird populations.

Duck hunting regulations are based on biological population assessments using the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) process. AHM, developed by the USFWS and flyway councils, is a regulation-setting process based on science and objectivity. During 2006, the AHM process suggested that a liberal duck hunting season in all flyways was consistent with the long-term welfare of North American waterfowl populations.

Mallard in flight
Mallard drake
Photo by Gary Lehman - click to enlarge

Although population models indicate that Eastern mallards, which drive duck hunting regulations in the Atlantic Flyway, can sustain these liberal seasons, there remains concern over the impact of liberal seasons on less abundant species such as black ducks, pintails and scaup. Within the near future we hope to review the impact of duck hunting regulation packages on all duck stocks in the Atlantic Flyway with our flyway partners and make any changes as necessary.

Pintail ducks
Pintail ducks
Photo by Gary Lehman - click to enlarge

Most species of ducks in the eastern and mid-continent survey areas were near their long-term averages, although there is concern for some species. Scaup populations have remained depressed for more than 20 years and in 2006, again reached a record low of 3.2 million birds -- 37% below the long-term average.

Due to the continued poor status of scaup, bag limits remain at 2 scaup per day. Although pintails remained below their long-term average, 2006 population indices increased 32% relative to last year and will again have a 1 bird per day bag limit through the 60-day duck season.

Black ducks are a "bread and butter" duck in the Atlantic Flyway, particularly in states with abundant salt marsh habitat like New Jersey. Recent assessments have suggested that the harvest potential for black ducks may be declining possibly due to a reduced breeding effort that might be related to large scale landscape changes. Given the importance of black ducks in the east, the USFWS, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Atlantic Flyway partners will be examining the potential impacts of this reduced harvest potential for black ducks over the next year.

All population indices suggest that hooded mergansers have increased significantly across their range during the last 20 years. As a result, the bag limit for hooded mergansers was increased from 1 to 2 birds this year. In several regions within the US, hooded mergansers are a popular game species.

The daily bag limit in New Jersey will be 6 ducks and may not include more than 4 mallards (including no more than 2 hens), 4 scoters, 2 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 1 canvasback and 1 black duck. Canvasbacks will be open for the duration of the duck season. Merganser bag limits will remain at 5 birds per day although the hooded merganser bag limit was increased to 2 birds. Merganser bag limits are in addition to regular duck bag limits. A total of 160,000 breeding pairs of Atlantic Population (AP) or "migrant" Canada geese were estimated from surveys during June, 2006 on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This estimate is similar to 2005, although banding crews working in the Ungava Bay region during August reported a somewhat poorer breeding effort than expected.

The regular season for Canada geese in New Jersey will be maintained at 45-days with a 3-bird bag limit. Additionally, the 2006 September Canada Goose Season will be held on a statewide basis from September 1-30. This year, the bag limit was increased to 15 birds per day during the September season. Although this bag limit change is not expected to solve the resident Canada goose overabundance problem in New Jersey, it is expected to provide some relief from resident goose problems on a local scale.

The Special Winter Canada Goose Season will be held January 22 to February 15, 2007 in two zones with the same hunt area boundaries as last year and a bag limit of 5 Canada geese per day. Both the September and Special Winter seasons are targeted at Resident Population Canada geese that number about one million birds in the Atlantic Flyway.

Since Atlantic brant breed in remote wilderness of the Canadian Arctic, their status is measured during January surveys on their wintering grounds. In the 2006 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey, 146,000 brant were counted and the most recent 10-year trend for brant shows no significant population change. Last winter, the number of brant wintering in New Jersey was 34% below the long-term average and was likely a response to poor productivity in sea lettuce. As a result, brant regulations in Atlantic Flyway states will remain conservative at 30-days with a 2 bird bag limit.

Snow goose populations remain high and biologists are concerned about the impacts snow geese have on fragile Arctic nesting habitats. Serious damage to Arctic wetlands has already been documented in several key snow goose breeding colonies. This damage impacts the snow geese themselves, as well as other wildlife dependent on the Arctic ecosystem.

Serious damage to agriculture also occurs in migration and wintering areas. The season length for snow geese is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bag limits will remain liberal this year with 15 snow geese per day and no possession limit.

Snow geese
Snow geese at Brigantine
Photo by Gary Lehman - click to enlarge
All hunters pursuing migratory birds including ducks, geese, brant, coot, woodcock, rails, snipe or gallinules, need to obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification through a new process. The web site and toll-free number previously used are no longer available. All HIP registrations are now handled through the division's new Integrated Electronic Licensing System (IELS). Migratory bird hunters can get their HIP certification one of three ways: online by visiting the division's license sales web site, at any agent using the new IELS system, or by calling the toll-free NJ telephone sales line at 888-277-2015.

Online and license agent HIP certifications will cost $2.00 while telephone HIP certifications will include a shipping/handling fee and cost $5.13. HIP certifications obtained from license agents and through the telephone system will be printed on durable green license stock (DO NOT LAMINATE!) while internet HIP certifications can be printed on a home computer. Regardless of the method used for HIP certification, hunters will be able to go hunting immediately after registering. HIP certification should be carried in the hunter's license holder. HIP certifications are valid from September 1, 2006 to March 10, 2007.

Additional information on special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days in New Jersey can be found on the this web site. Information on the status of waterfowl and habitat conditions can be viewed on the USFWS' web site at:

The 2006-07 New Jersey migratory bird hunting season dates follow. The 2006-07 Migratory Bird Regulations publication will be available at Division offices, license agents and sporting goods stores throughout the state in September.

2006-07 Migratory Bird Regulations Summary (pdf, 8kb)
Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification Information
Attention Rail, Snipe and Moorhen Hunters - Nontoxic Shotgun Shell Regulations in Effect for 2006

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 10, 2006