Continental breeding duck populations are down a bit from last year, but remain strong, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2013 breeding population survey, released Friday.
The preliminary estimate of total duck populations is 45.6 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s estimate of 48.6 million -- but is still 33 percent above the 1955-2012 long-term average.
“This spring saw abundant moisture in much of the heart of North America’s most important duck breeding areas,” said Ducks Unlimited chief scientist Dale Humburg. “That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and hopefully for hunting this fall. But we remain concerned with continuing loss of nesting habitat in these areas. Because ducks need both water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the ongoing loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will continue to impact the number of ducks in the fall flight.”
The total duck estimate excludes scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers and wood ducks.
Population estimates for specific species include:
• Mallards, 10.4 million, similar to the 2012 estimate of 10.6 million and 36 percent above the long-term average.
•Blue-winged teal, is 7.7 million, 16 percent below the 2012 estimate of 9.2 million, but 60 percent above the long-term average. Green-winged teal, 3.1 million, 12 percent below last year but still 51 percent above their long-term average.
•Northern pintail, 3.3 million, similar to the 2012 estimate of 3.5 million and 17 percent below the long-term average.
•American wigeon is 2.6 million and 23 percent above the 2012 estimate and similar to the long-term average.
•Lesser and greater scaup, 4.2 million, a 20 percent decrease from last year and 17 percent below the long-term average of 5 million. The canvasback estimate of 787,000 is similar to the 2012 estimate and 37 percent above the long-term average.
Here’s more from the Fish and Wildlife Service release:
Despite a delayed spring throughout most of the traditional survey area, habitat conditions during the 2013 survey were generally improved or similar to last year due to above-average precipitation. Most of the Canadian portions of the traditional survey area were rated as good to excellent, in contrast to 2012 where drier conditions existed across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Although the U.S. prairies received record snowfall in April, habitat conditions were still rated only fair to poor, similar to last year. The total pond estimate (prairie Canada and the north-central United States combined) is 6.9 million, 24 percent higher than the 2012 estimate of 5.5 million ponds and 35 percent above the long-term average.
In the eastern survey area -- eastern Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces and Maine -- estimated mallard abundance is 500,000 birds. The black duck estimate is 622,000. Habitat conditions across most of the eastern survey area generally were good with the exception of Maine and the southern Maritimes, which were rated only as fair.
The surveys are conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Services’ Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, sampling more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across Alaska, the north-central and northeastern United States and south-central, eastern and northern Canada. Information is not included from surveys conducted by state or provincial agencies.
The annual survey guides the Service’s waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Service works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways – the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific – to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits.
For more information about the surveyed areas, the survey methodology and the estimates, the Trends Report in Duck Breeding Populations, 1955-2013 report can be downloaded from the Service's Web site at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds.