Duck numbers remain strong despite drop from last year

Duck populations across the key nesting areas of North America have dropped 6 percent from 2012 estimates but still remain a third higher than long-term populations.

That’s the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the release this week of the Service’s annual report titled Trends in Duck Breeding Populations.

Total duck populations in the surveyed area were estimated at 45.6 million breeding ducks, a drop of 6 percent from last year’s estimate of 48.6 million birds yet 33 percent above the 1955-2012 average.

The report is the result of biologist surveys in May and early June of U.S. and Canadian waterfowl breeding areas.

“This spring saw abundant moisture in much of the heart of North America’s most important duck breeding areas,” said Dale Humburg, chief scientist for the conservation group Ducks Unlimited. “That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and hopefully, for hunting this fall.”

However, Humburg said there still is some concern with the continuing loss of nesting habitat in key waterfowl-nesting areas.

Because ducks need both water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the continued loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will continue to impact the number of ducks in the fall flight.

“We must maintain our focus on protecting and restoring important habitat across the birds’ range in order to see these kinds of numbers in future wet years,” said Dale Hall, CEO for Ducks Unlimited.

Of the 10 ducks species surveyed, seven had population estimates similar to last year, including mallards, estimated at 10.327 million birds, a drop of 2 percent from 2012 but 36 percent above long-term numbers.

American wigeon were up 23 percent over last year.

Two species (northern pintail and scaup) remained below their long-term average and North American Waterfowl Management Plan goals.


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