Numbers from the 2015 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wild-duck population report show duck species with very healthy numbers.

This is good news for birders because there are many non-game species that share duck breeding habitat. If ducks are doing well, perhaps we can be hopeful about rails, bitterns, snipe, waders, blackbirds, species that nest in the grasslands often surrounding wetlands, and for the raptors that hunt above them.

Counts of the 10 most popular duck species were taken in what the service describes as traditional survey areas. A focus are the wetlands of western and northwestern Minnesota and more particularly much of eastern North Dakota and South Dakota. Canadian wetlands are surveyed, those numbers included in the report.

Aerial and ground survey numbers were applied to a formula to attain estimated totals. The count has 60 years of background against which to compare current figures. The information is gathered to aid appropriate management of hunting seasons. 

Scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers, and Wood Ducks were not included because the survey area does not include much of the breeding grounds for these species. 

Goose species were not counted. If there is a problem with geese it is over 



Total wild duck population, in traditional survey area, up 48 million birds, 38% above long-term average (1955-2015). This despite below-average rain leading to early drying of many Canadian and U.S. prairie wetlands.

Mallard, 11.5 million, similar to 2015, up 51% long term.

Gadwall, 3.7 million, similar to 2015, long-term up 90%.

American Wigeon, 3.4 million, similar to 2015, up 31% long term.

Green-winged Teal, 4.3 million similar to 2015, 104% over long-term number.

Blue-winged Teal, 6.7 million, 22% lower than 2015 estimate, but 34% above long term.

Northern Shovelers, 4 million, similar to 2015, 56% above long term.

Northern Pintail, 2.6 million, similar to 2015, 34% below long-term.

Redheads, 1.3 million, similar to 2015, 82% above long term.

Canvasbacks, 700,000, similar to 2015, 26% above long term.

Scaup, 5 million, similar both to 2015 and long-term average.

There is no reason not to be optimistic as well about the waterfowl species not included in the survey.

Federal and state governments pay more particular attention waterfowl than, for example, songbirds. There are no federal and state stamps sale of which provides funds for songbird habitat acquisition and maintenance. (There is one designated breeding area for a songbird, Kirtland’s Warbler. It’s in Miichigan, and is not supported by stamp sale.)

Duck stamp sales, both federal and state, work for both categories, however. Stamp money provides funding for acquisition of wetlands known as Waterfowl Production Areas. There are dozens of these in Minnesota. They provide major breeding habitat for millions of ducks and millions of non-game birds. 

The future enjoyment of both bird hunters and bird watchers are contained in those wetlands.