Bio-Energetic Value of the Flathead and Smith Valleys in Northwest Montana for Spring Waterfowl Migration

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Flathead Valley
Smith valley
Migratory waterfowl
smith valleys
northwest montana
waterfowl survey
Volume 18, No. 1-4

Bio-energetic value of the flathead and smith 
Valleys in northwest montana for spring 
Waterfowl migration 
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.