A drastic decline in wintering waterfowl this season is largely to blame on warm weather, according to South Carolina authorities.
The state's mid-winter waterfowl survey yielded a 57 percent decrease over last year's survey, according to South Carolina DNR waterfowl project leader Tommy Strange.
This year's survey counted 57,019 ducks, well short of the 39-year average of 212,273. The highest on record was 525,800. Although there was cold weather, with a snowstorm in January, climactic averages have been warmer than usual.
The decreased count this year is partly because of reduced numbers of ringneck ducks - dropping from 41,000 a year ago to barely 12,000 in January.
Each January, state, federal and private organizations across the United States and Mexico count waterfowl in specified areas to establish a population index. The survey has been conducted since 1955.
"The abnormally warm winter over much of the Southern and mid-latitude states as well as the Mississippi Flyway caused migrating birds to stop short of traditional areas," Strange said.