By PJ Maguire

urban waterfowl

It should come as no surprise that the biggest wildlife refuge in Minnesota is the Twin Cities. I would be willing to bet that there are more trophy bucks, Canada geese and mallard ducks in the city limits of the Metro than there are in out-state Minnesota. Of course this is just an opinion I have come to through my own observations.

Currently, I am lucky to have a job that allows me to travel quite often. Sometimes I travel for work, sometimes for pleasure, occasionally to relax, but more often to hunt game. Even when I am not going to different parts of the United States hunting, I am forever observing wildlife.

Last February, I traveled to the panhandle of Florida with my family for my aunt's wedding. My sister and I stayed with her fiancé and a few cousins at a nice resort just off the coast. The complex was located in the middle of a golf course, which was dotted with the standard water hazards. I was surprised to notice that these water hazards were covered with Lesser Scaup, aka Bluebills.

With the 2007 duck counts complete, the lesser Scaup population were recorded at the lowest levels ever. There are still plenty of lesser Scaup in North America, but their population numbers are steadily declining. I was tickled to see the abundance of lesser Scaup taking advantage of the fresh water found in these water hazards just off their Florida coast wintering grounds.

I received a few odd looks from golfers, but I made some closer observations of the Bluebills while taking some pictures. Seeing these diver ducks up close, in the small ponds was pretty unique. It was pretty much the last place I ever expected to see the duck that once filled waterfowl hunters bags across Minnesota.

urban hunting

I witnessed another great example of 'urban waterfowl' last winter on a windy day in downtown Chicago. It was late February and I was outside the Sheraton hotel waiting for a bus to take me to a convention for work. The Chicago River was flowing just a block away, dumping into Lake Michigan near the Navy Pier, if you are familiar with the area.

My senses were heightened when the sound of calling Canada geese pierced the morning air. I looked towards the river and sure enough there was a flock of about a dozen geese screaming through the atmosphere above the river. These birds were flying within yards of big skyscrapers as they headed for lake Michigan.

It was a beautiful site; the geese were probably flying about forty-five yards high. I smiled to myself and thought, 'These big geese really are everywhere.' The image of Canada geese flying through the shiny glass buildings is something I will carry with me forever. That was the icing on the cake.

With new developments popping up across the Midwest there are plenty of places to witness ducks and geese within city limits. In many states, the Canada goose concentrations have even become higher in the cities than in the country. In recent years, some states have even been relocating these 'golf course geese' to agricultural areas.

When the Minnesota DNR released Canada goose population counts, I noticed that they didn't include a bird count for the Metro area. I am not sure if this is something new they are doing to reduce costs or if they haven't been doing them for awhile. It is also possible that the DNR has a pretty good grasp of what the numbers are with in the city limits. Regardless, most of these geese never leave.