Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

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Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby suicidal_scaup » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:20 pm

Which one makes the birds move? Do they migrate 'cause the water is too cold or 'cause the air is? Or is it food? Something else?
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby beretta24 » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:14 pm

Depends on the species, and to some extent the birds. A lot of mallards and geese are totally dependant on food and water availability. There's a lot of evidence to suggest cans migrate independent of food and water availability. Not sure on bwt, I would guess they trigger on air temp in general, but that's an assumption.
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby mauserfan » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:17 am

What about rapidly diminishing barometric pressures and wind directions aloft?....mauser
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby Ducks22 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:39 am

I'm a pretty firm believer in air temp more than water temp. I have a hard time believing it is water temp that is a factor in the migration. Combine that with a north wind, falling pressure and your early migrants are gone. Now that is all depending on the species. Watch mallards, when that happens all they do is feed a little earlier and more, hunker down and ride it out. Divers sit on the lake and roll with the waves.
I also think the moon phases have a some to do with the migration patterns. But what the heck do i know.
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby beretta24 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:15 am

I have to agree with a lot of what was said, but I think you can throw all rules of thumb out the window about 30 percent of the time.

I just try to get out when I can because its hard for me adjust my schedule for the weather.
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby Mort » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:13 pm

I was taught in a Natural Resource class back in high school that regular seasonal movements are driven by changing photo period, basically the length of day and night in a 24 hr period. Migration to waterfowl is basically " hard wired" ... If that makes sense ..

So in the spring longer days arrive and they go north, fall comes around to shorter days and they move south.

But when the clock is ticking on these birds they become restless and store fat reserves and then BOOM.... Short term weather happens.. Cold fronts, temperature, precipitation, and wind. That's what gets the fall migration moving. They know they're going south, they just need a kick in the rear end.


So yeah I'd say Air temp has more to do with it then water temp.

If anyone here hasn't heard about the great Armistice day blizzard... Google it and read up some time. It was a mild fall through out the Midwest until that hit.. Just imagine all the ducks stacked up waiting for that "kick in the rear!"
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby goldfish » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:59 pm

Except for your example would say they would migrate after the blizzard, because that would be the kick on the pants, but they spoke of skies filled with birds before the storm hit

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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby MinnesotaDan » Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:26 pm

One thing I've seemed to notice is that a windy clear sky night, especially one with a full moon, makes for a bad next day of hunting.

The mystery of the fall migration is a big part of what makes duck hunting so fun to me. You never really have it all figured out, and you never really know what morning you're gonna hit it big.
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby Mort » Wed Oct 09, 2013 5:28 am

goldfish wrote:Except for your example would say they would migrate after the blizzard, because that would be the kick on the pants, but they spoke of skies filled with birds before the storm hit

sent from a phancy fone


Right, they knew the storm was coming. They knew the wind and cold air temps were on there way. So I'm guessing they were searching for food before the big push because the birds knew they were gonna be in migrating south????

The fact that its "hard wired" in there head to move south, the up coming front was the kick in the rear.
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby mauserfan » Wed Oct 09, 2013 7:05 am

I have witnessed the movement related to massive storm fronts a few times. The Halloween storm of the early 1990's and a Nov.1 Cold front in about 1996 and 1997. All times I was in Canada. It was a spectacle. Twice, our 16 bird limit was made up of 13 species. Flocks were mixed of all birds. I agree that they are "wired" to their natural movements. I also believe that the larger the weather front, the more movement there is prior to it as well as the timing before it . All of these fronts gave the birds incentive to move. There was also an early large cold front that hit about Oct.1 in 2010, maybe 2009, that moved a lot of birds into the state so, things can happen anytime. Be safe.....mauser :thumbsup:
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby goldfish » Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:36 am

I think it was two years ago that a had a big system move thru and everyone was taking about "the big push is coming". The DNR out in laq qui parle said there was no notable difference in bird numbers before the storm, but the day after it the birds just kept raining down from the sky all day. Then you hear stories of the birds being as thick as a fog bank in front of it.

I think the birds don't know any more than we do, and that's that they need to go south before it freezes. We complicate it in an attempt to try and get one step ahead of something that has the brain the size of a marble

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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby pondhopper32 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:51 pm

Mort wrote:I was taught in a Natural Resource class back in high school that regular seasonal movements are driven by changing photo period, basically the length of day and night in a 24 hr period. Migration to waterfowl is basically " hard wired" ... If that makes sense ..

So in the spring longer days arrive and they go north, fall comes around to shorter days and they move south.

But when the clock is ticking on these birds they become restless and store fat reserves and then BOOM.... Short term weather happens.. Cold fronts, temperature, precipitation, and wind. That's what gets the fall migration moving. They know they're going south, they just need a kick in the rear end.


So yeah I'd say Air temp has more to do with it then water temp.

If anyone here hasn't heard about the great Armistice day blizzard... Google it and read up some time. It was a mild fall through out the Midwest until that hit.. Just imagine all the ducks stacked up waiting for that "kick in the rear!"



One of my favorite stories of my grandfather, who died when I was 5 years old, was him out duck hunting during the Armistice Day Blizzard in Southeastern MN. Apparently the winds were so bad it pushed the water out of the shallow marsh he was hunting and him and several others were stranded and had to walk miles in mud with almost zero visability because of the blowing snow. I always wish I could have talked to him about duck hunting, I can't imagine what the birds must have been like back then and the gear they used. They didn't have the Weather channel app on their smart phones, they could just feel there was weather moving in and the birds were gonna be flying!

As for the factors in migration, a lot of good points have been made, clear windy nights= bad morning hunts in my experience for sure. I went out last year on a Monday after we had snow and wind all weekend, the weather was starting to settle and the Mallards showed up like they had never been shot at before, best Mallard hunt I've ever had in MN and it was after a front. I went back 2 days later and they were gone. That storm definitely put them in migration mode but they were behind the storm, not ahead of it. I am no scientist but that seemed kind of weird to me..
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Re: Water Temp vs. Air Temp...

Postby pondhopper32 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:46 am

This is a cool article about hunting the migration from the DU website:


"Hunting Flight Ducks

Tips for hunting waterfowl that are on the move

•Food resources, winds, and hunting pressure can move birds from one area to another.
•Creative decoy strategies and aggressive calling help mid-latitude hunters late in the season.


By Matt Young

This is a time of transition for migratory waterfowl across North America. The first major snowstorms and Arctic blasts of the year begin to plunge across the Canadian border, and rapidly declining day lengths and progressively colder weather trigger the migration of waterfowl from the breeding grounds. This is the time of year that waterfowlers in mid-latitude states live for, when every major cold front can bring new flights and hot shooting.

Mike Checkett, a Missouri native and communications specialist at DU national headquarters in Memphis, says most waterfowl migrate primarily in response to food availability. "Ducks that feed largely on aquatic vegetation, seeds, and other natural plant foods found in shallow water areas, including green-winged teal, gadwall, wigeon, and wood ducks, are typically the first to migrate, because they can quickly lose access to their food supplies during a sudden freeze. The food resources used by migrating mallards, black ducks, scaup, and other divers, which feed on waste grain in dry fields or on mollusks and crustaceans in deep, open lakes, are less vulnerable to cold weather. These birds don't have to migrate until deep snow covers the fields or frigid temperatures freeze big water areas."

Hunting the Migration

For waterfowlers who hunt along waterfowl migration corridors, timing is everything. "To be successful at mid-latitudes you have to be flexible enough to drop everything and go when the weather is right," Checkett says. "While I was conducting my master’s research on state waterfowl areas in north-central Missouri, I noticed that new ducks would start to trickle in a day or two ahead of major cold fronts, and even more birds would pile into management areas as the front was blowing through. However, while the peak of the migration usually occurred with the front, the best hunting occurred on clear, cold days immediately after the front had passed."

"Migrating waterfowl take full advantage of tail winds," Checkett continues, "and many of the birds will ride them as far as they can until the wind shifts. On north wind days, you'll often see a lot of ducks moving south, but many of them keep on going. From my personal experience, the best time to hunt is following a frontal passage, when the wind has just started to shift from north to the south. Migrating flocks know it's time to stop when they hit a headwind or the wind subsides.

At such times, Checkett recommends waterfowlers use large decoy spreads and aggressive calling to draw in passing flocks. "Nearly all migratory birds use flocking as an adaptive strategy. When ducks first arrive in an area, they are often drawn to large wetlands in search of large concentrations of other ducks that signify safety and the availability of food. They respond to calling for the same reasons. "
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