Doug Smith

Even if the fish aren’t biting, the ducks aren’t flying and the pheasants aren’t flushing, Doug Smith says any day spent outdoors is a good day. A Minnesota native, he’s been covering the outdoors for the Star Tribune since 1995. He considers walleyes fried over a campfire to be gourmet cuisine.

Continental duck population up 8 percent, to record high

Posted by: Doug Smith Updated: July 4, 2014 - 10:42 AM

Continental duck populations have increased over last year to record levels, and
their habitat conditions have improved, according to a U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service report released Wednesday.

The preliminary estimate for the total duck population is 49.2 million
birds, an 8 percent increase over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million
birds, and 43 percent above the long-term average.

It's also the highest population recorded during the annual surveys.

“This spring, as has been the case for the past several years, saw abundant moisture across much of North America's most important duck breeding areas,” said DU Chief Biologist Scott Yaich.

“That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and, we hope, for hunting this fall. But we remain concerned with the continuing and escalating loss of nesting habitat in these areas.''

Added Yaich: "Because ducks need water, wetlands to hold the water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the ongoing loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will increasingly impact the number of ducks in the fall flight in the long-term.”

Meanwhile, the report also provides abundance estimates for individual duck species,
including mallard, blue-winged teal, northern pintail, American wigeon,
lesser and greater scaup, and canvasback, all of which are similar to or
slightly above last year’s totals. Most species’ populations, such as
mallard and blue-winged teal, remain significantly above the long-term
average, while others, including scaup and pintail are still below.

Here are some details:

 * Estimated mallard abundance is 10.9 million birds, similar to last
   year’s estimate of 10.4 million birds and 42% above the long-term average.

  * Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 8.5 million, which is 10%
   above the 2013 estimate of 7.7 million, and 75% above the long-term average.

   * The northern pintail estimate of 3.2 million was similar to last
   year’s estimate of 3.3 million, and remains 20% below the long-term average.

   * American wigeon were 18% above the 2013 estimate and 20% above the
   long-term average.

   * The combined (lesser and greater) scaup estimate of 4.6 million was
   similar to 2013 and 8% below the long-term average of 5 million.   The
   canvasback estimate of 685 thousand was slightly lower than the 2013
   estimate of 787 thousand, but was 18% above the long-term average.

The annual duck survey encompasses more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across Alaska, north-central and northeastern U.S. states, and south-central, eastern and northern Canada. The survey area doesn't include Minnesota.

Here's more from Fish and Wildlife Service news release:

Habitat conditions assessed during the survey were mostly improved or
similar to last year as a result of average to above-average annual
precipitation. The total pond estimate (prairie Canada and U.S. combined)
was 7.2 million ponds, 40 percent above the long-term average.  The
majority of Canadian prairies had below to well below average winter
temperatures and average precipitation. Southern Manitoba benefitted from
last year’s higher summer and fall precipitation, whereas southern
Saskatchewan and most of Alberta were aided by higher spring 2014
precipitation.  In the U.S. prairies, habitat conditions improved in the
western Dakotas and Montana from 2013, but remained similar in the eastern
Dakotas.

The annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey guides the
Service’s waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Waterfowl population surveys and monitoring
programs are critical components of successful waterfowl management, and a
reflection of the Service’s commitment to generating high quality
scientific data to inform conservation planning.

For more information about the surveyed areas, the survey methodology and
the estimates, the " Trends Report in Duck Breeding Populations, 1955-2014" can
be downloaded from the Service’s website at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds.
Visit www.www.flyways.us/status-of-waterfowl/pilot-reports for pilot
biologists’ flight blogs.
 

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