Bio-energetic value of the flathead and smith
Valleys in northwest montana for spring
Gael Bissell*, Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks;
Chris Hammond, Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
The abundance of lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and agricultural lands of the Flathead
and Smith Valleys in northwest Montana attracts a significant number of migratory waterfowl
moving from wintering grounds to breeding habitats each spring. These diverse habitats
provide food and resting areas for thousands of waterfowl and other waterbirds each year.
These valleys are also undergoing rapid habitat transformation due to growth in human
population with concomitant conversions from rural agricultural and riparian habitats to
more residential and commercial development. To quantify the current extent, distribution,
importance, and species that use this area as a spring stopover, we initiated a randomly
stratified, weekly, simultaneous waterfowl survey of selected areas from early March through
April. We began in spring 2010 and will continue through spring 2012. The data will be
extrapolated to the entire study area and for the 2-month period to develop an estimate of
total annual waterfowl feeding days by species. Habitat data are also being incorporated.
Preliminary results from first 2 years of data indicate that the 4 most common migrant
waterfowl species, in order of total numbers counted, are Mallard, Northern Pintail, Canada
Goose, and American Wigeon. Preliminary extrapolations of waterfowl survey data in terms
of bioenergetics will be summarized.