The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been interested in migratory birds, especially waterfowl, in Mexico for many years, An early period of cooperation in waterfowl administration was culminated in 1937 with the final ratification of the Convention Between the United States and the United Mexican States for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals, usually referred to as the Migratory Bird Treat.
Management of waterfowl on this continent is primarily carried out by hunting regulations. Current information on the status of each species must be obtained each year to serve as a basis for any needed modifications in the regulations. In the United States and Canada, wildlife biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service annually make the surveys to obtain this basic information. But the Government of Mexico has made no comparable surveys. Mexicans are not interested in hunting waterfowl to the extent that citizens of the United States and Canada are. As a consequence, Mexico‘s Department of Game emphasizes activities other than waterfowl management.
Waterfowl, especially ducks, winter in or migrate through Mexico in large numbers, so it is obvious that and continental surveys of the winter population should include Mexico. Some general investigations of waterfowl distribution there were made in 1926 and earlier by E. A. Goldman. He was familiar with much of Mexico because he and E. W. Nelson studied mammals and biota there for many years. In the 1930‘s, because of the greater emphasis on waterfowl conservation and management, more detailed surveys were made of the continental breeding and wintering populations. One of these activities was designated as the midwinter, or January, inventory.
In the early 1940‘s the senior author, who had been the Central Flyaway Biologist since 1937, recommended that the waterfowl wintering grounds in Mexico be included in the coverage of the midwinter waterfowl inventory. This was arranged in 1947, and the first aerial coverage, which only included coastal localities, was made in January-February of that year. The information obtained confirmed the value and advisability of including the Mexican wintering grounds in the annual survey; beginning in 1951 the wintering grounds in the Mexican highlands also were included. The surveys of Mexico were continued, except in 1957, through 1965; after 1965 they were greatly reduced.
Ground reconnaissance and surveys had begun in Mexico with the preliminary work of Goldman in 1926, but quantitative studies were not started until 1937. The ground surveys continued at intervals in various parts of the Republic until 1960. Ground surveys are invaluable for such purposes as securing ecological information, specimens of birds and plants, and historical data about the areas from local residents, but the only satisfactory method of obtaining accurate quantitative information on waterfowl populations and their distribution is by airplane. Consequently, the major emphasis since 1947 has been on the annual aerial surveys. Ground studies were made much less frequently and were carried out mainly to obtain correlative information on the waterfowl foods available, the ecology of habitats, and for liaison with wildlife officials and biologists in Mexico.
An important reason for the surveys of the waterfowl wintering grounds in Mexico was to determine their adequacy for the population of birds using them, and their potential to accommodate additional waterfowl if the wintering grounds in the United States became inadequate and larger flights entered Mexico. Other advantages included providing accurate information to hunters and other interested persons in the United States regarding the waterfowl shooting in Mexico, and determining the current status of these birds and their habitats in that country. Some of these findings were previously summarized by us (Saunders and Saunders 1949; Saunders 1964).