State biologists counted an estimated 400,491 waterfowl in the Mississippi Delta during their December aerial survey conducted Dec. 16-18, the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Department reported.

"As expected, waterfowl numbers increased from the November survey, but duck numbers are considerably less than last year's estimate of 685,000 ducks," biologist Houston Havens said.

The lower number of ducks in the Delta compared to last year was attributed to an unchanged freeze line that extended from mid Missouri to Indiana and warmer temperatures that have melted snow and ice below that line, creating extensive flooded habitat north of Mississippi.

"In contrast to these good habitat conditions, only a few areas of the Delta have large amounts of flooded habitat, and these regions have reported good concentrations of ducks and relatively consistent harvest," according to the MWFP report.

That combination resulted in about 48 percent fewer mallards moving into the Delta. Last December's estimate showed 224,000 greenheads versus this year's 117,000 mallards.

"The combination of above-normal rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures in areas of Arkansas and Missouri has likely contributed to the relatively low numbers of mallards that waterfowl hunters are observing," MDWFP Waterfowl Program Coordinator Ed Penny said.

Maps developed by biologists showed the overall concentrations of ducks were found in Tunica, upper Quitman and western Panola counties. The largest concentrations of mallards were found in Tunica, upper Quitman, eastern Issaquena and western Sharkey counties.

The next aerial survey will be conducted during the week of Jan. 4.