Federal agencies report abundant duck populations in 2012
Stonewall, Manitoba, July 5, 2012 — This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its preliminary report on breeding ducks and habitat conditions based on surveys conducted in May and early June in collaboration with the Canadian Wildlife Service. This remarkable, long-running survey annually samples more than two million square miles of waterfowl habitat across the North-central United States and Canada.
Populations of all ducks combined were estimated at 48.6 million in the surveyed area, a record high. This estimate represents a seven per cent increase over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds, and is 43 per cent above the 1955-2011 long-term average.
Pond numbers, the most important long-term indicator of habitat conditions in Prairie Canada and the North-central United States, dropped 32 per cent from the very wet conditions experienced in 2011. This decline (49 per cent for the U.S., 21 per cent for Canada) was manifested mostly in fewer, small shallow wetlands, typically the most important ponds for breeding ducks, while the larger, deeper wetlands persisted from previous years. Still, the total number of ponds remained nine per cent over the long-term average.
“We expected a strong return migration because 2011 was an excellent production year,” said Dr. Mike Anderson, senior conservation advisor for Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The winter was generally dry and pond conditions across the Prairies deteriorated from the very wet conditions experienced last year, but the counts this spring offered few surprises.”
The estimated abundance of most duck species changed little between 2011 and 2012:
- Mallard, 10.6 million, a 15 per cent increase over 2011 and 39 per cent above the long-term average (LTA) from 1955-2011.
- Gadwall, 3.6 million, similar to 2011 and 96 per cent above the LTA.
- American Wigeon, 2.1 million, also similar to 2011, but 17 per cent below the LTA.
- Green-winged Teal, 3.5 million, a 20 per cent increase from 2011 and 74 per cent above the LTA.
- Blue-winged Teal at 9.2 million were unchanged from last year and 94 per cent above LTA.
- Northern Shovelers were tallied at 5 million, unchanged from last year but a whopping 111 per cent greater than the LTA. Estimates for both of these species have never been higher.
- Northern Pintails declined to 3.5 million, 22 per cent below 2011 and 14 percent below the LTA.
- Redhead and Canvasback abundances were unchanged from 2011, but above the LTA by 89 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
- The combined estimate for Lesser and Greater Scaup (that can’t be reliably differentiated in an aerial survey) was 5.2 million, up 21 per cent from 2011 and similar to the LTA.
- In the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, the estimated abundance for American Black Duck increased about 11 per cent, and was similar to the 1990-2011 average. Other duck populations there were much the same as last year.
“In years like this when the Prairies are drier and large numbers of Northern Pintails are counted further north, it is typical that overall population estimates are lower,” said Karla Guyn, director of conservation planning. “Conversely, compared with 2011, many Scaup were tallied in Southern Canada this year, which might have contributed to the higher estimate for these birds.”
“American Wigeon numbers outside of Alaska remain a cause for concern,” added Anderson. “By and large these are very encouraging results in the face of all the pressures on waterfowl breeding habitat.”
“How these excellent breeding numbers will translate into population growth will depend on the survival of duck nests and ducklings for the remainder of the summer,” added Guyn. “Our challenge remains to secure and restore the critical habitats needed by these breeding ducks so that the abundance of waterfowl we celebrate today can be sustained for decades to come.”
Please visit www.fws.gov for the full Trends in Duck Breeding Populations 1955-2012 report.
About Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, other non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. Learn more at ducks.ca.
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