CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hunters who head afield Tuesday for West Virginia's duck-season opener should see plenty of mallards, wood ducks and maybe even some teal.
So says Steve Wilson, waterfowl project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources. "Most of our ducks are resident birds, and because we had lots of rainfall and abundant water this year, our mallards and wood ducks enjoyed pretty good duckling survival," he explained.
"Having lots of water gives ducklings more places to go and hide. I think we'll see that reflected in the number of ducks hunters see this fall."
Resident birds play such a large role because West Virginia is located between the Atlantic and Mississippi migration flyways. Not many ducks migrate through the state, although Wilson believes this year might become an exception to that rule.
"The mild weather we've had might slow the teal migration down a bit, so hunters might get into some of those," he said.
Census surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate that green-winged and blue-winged teal numbers are what Wilson calls "way over the top," some 60 percent above the long-term average. Mallard populations are 36 percent above average.
Black ducks, West Virginia's other relatively abundant duck species, aren't quite that abundant, but Wilson said their numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
"Black ducks are still below where we want them to be, but compared to the long-term average, they're not bad," he said.