200,000 Waterfowl At NC's Lake Mattamuskeet: A Symphony Of Sight And Sound

Jan 24, 2014

The annual migration of waterfowl to Lake Mattamuskeet is underway in Swan Quarter. Roughly 200,000 birds were counted in the National wildlife refuge this month, continuing a rising trend over years past. 

Migration of birds at Lake Mattamuskeet
Credit Lake Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge
 That means visitors to the lake are in for some noise for the next month or so. The  birds have made the refuge their temporary home.   John Stanton with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service said it's a remarkable sound, followed by a remarkable silence:

"When you've got 100,000 - 200,000 waterfowl on a large lake and sound carries very well across the lake, it's just a cacophony of sound.

It's amazing.

And the swan, their hooting and their whistling and their vocalizations appear at times to just go on endlessly.        But when they leave, the first thing I notice is the silence."

The lake is 18 miles long by 7 miles wide. Stanton said it's vast expanse and shallow depths are perfect for growing vegetation for the hungry waterfowl:

Really, it's kind of like natures smorgasbord for the wintering waterfowl to have a lake that large that is shallow and is conducive to growing aquatic vegetation.

The refuge is open to the public. The birds are expected to begin migrating back north at the end of February.