Illinois Duck Counts
Average historic waterfowl distribution, 2013-2022
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Illinois duck counts, by the numbers...
41% Mallards, 33% Other Puddle Duck Species, 26% Other Species
From being home to the birthplace of the modern duck call to at one point holding more duck clubs in a single stretch of river than anywhere else in America, Illinois has a rich history in waterfowling. And for good reason–the Prairie State plays host to an enormous amount of ducks during their winter migration.
Early on in the migration, the entirety of the Illinois River holds respectable amounts of ducks, but the stretch between Peoria and Meredosia usually has a very high concentration. Banner Marsh, Sangonois Wildlife Area, and Emiquon Refuge are some areas along this stretch of river that have historically been very heavily used by waterfowl.
In the southern part of the state, Carlyle Lake and Union County Refuge usually boast moderate concentrations of ducks in November.
65% Mallards, 12% Other Puddle Duck Species, 23% Other Species
December is usually a great time to be a waterfowler in Illinois–as the state is usually loaded up with ducks. As smaller ducks move out, and bigger ducks move in, waterfowl populations usually increase overall in December, and the same areas with modest duck counts in November usually seeing increases in December.
The stretch of the Illinois River south of Peoria usually usually continues to hold a large population of ducks into December.
Along the Mississippi River, Towhead Lake and Delair Refuge usually host a large concentrations of ducks, as do the areas around the intersection of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers–the Two Rivers Refuge in Illinois and the Marais Temp Clair Conservation Area in Missouri.
Concentrations in the souther part of the state start to increase in December as well, with Union County Refuge usually having a relatively high duck count, and Crab Orchard Lake and Horseshoe Lake having relatively moderately high duck counts.
64% Mallards, 12% Other Puddle Duck Species, 24% Other Species
Generally speaking, by mid-January, a mixture of weather, lack of habitat, etc. has pushed many of the ducks in Northern and central Illinois further south.
There are usually still a few high concentrations of birds holding out in the refuges along the Illinois River, and the refuges and duck clubs near the intersection of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, but by and large the best hunting in the state in the month of January is in the southern part.
In south-central Illinois, Keck’s Marsh and Carlyle Lake are usually good bets, and further south, Horseshoe Lake, Union County Refuge, and–depending on conditions–on occasion the Cache River, usually have relative high duck counts as well.
About the Illinois Waterfowl Distribution Maps
Migration Station’s waterfowl distribution maps are contour maps created with a combination of historic migration data and harvest data from the US Fish & Wildlife Service which aim to display relative waterfowl distributions over certain periods of time throughout the season. These maps take into account Illinois duck counts, goose counts and general migration reports.
Due to the nature of contour creation and our methods of averaging large amounts of data from over a long period of recent history, this information is intended to represent a rough approximation. As such, these maps are meant to be illustrative in nature only, and actual concentrations vary year to year depending on a a variety of factors such as, but not limited to, weather, hunting pressure, available habitat, etc.