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The Great Migration

Oct 13, 2014

It’s time to get out those binoculars and get ready for some intense bird watching! Waterfowl migration will soon take over Missouri skies.

During the next few months, thousands of quacking, honking ducks and geese will be winging their way through this area.

Following a path known as the Mississippi flyway, waterfowl head south in the fall to warmer climates. When northern waters begin freezing and food becomes scarce, ducks and geese begin their fall migration.

Blue-winged teal and pintails are the first ducks to arrive in the fall. The teal’s powder-blue wing patches and the pintail’s sharply pointed tail feathers make them easy to identify as they feed in ponds and marshes.

November’s chilly winds will push these birds further south, but by then, large numbers of ring-necks, scaups, and then mallards have appeared. Snow geese arrive in December. The last ducks to stop over are Canada geese and more “divers,” several kinds of black and white ducks that rest and feed in the rough, frigid water of large lakes and rivers.

Some of these migrant waterfowl spend all winter in the Midwest. Others travel further south.

More on Migration

  • The blue-winged teal usually migrates to areas along the Gulf of Mexico, and parts of southern California and Texas. Many fly as far south as Peru, Brazil and Argentina.
  • Canada geese calls can be heard as they fly over in a V-formation, signaling spring and autumn.
  • Snow geese are a popular quarry of waterfowl hunters. Their large, calling chevrons flying high overhead during migration are a timeless symbol of the changing seasons.

See last year’s mallard migration in this status map in the MDC’s Field Guide.

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