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North America’s ducks need Canada

July 02, 2015 National
North America’s ducks need Canada

Oak Hammock Marsh, Man. – Following on the heels of Canada Day, there’s another reason to celebrate the land of the true north strong and free. It’s paddling in a pond near you. Thanks to strong conservation efforts and abundant habitat in Canada, populations of North American ducks and other waterfowl are at all-time highs.

The 2015 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report released by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) summarizes duck populations and habitats, as surveyed on both sides of the border in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 49.5 million breeding ducks. This is the highest count on record and 51 per cent above the 1955-2014 long-term average. Last year’s estimate was 49.2 million birds.

“Canadian landscapes play a critical role in maintaining these strong populations,” says Dr. Karla Guyn, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s national director of conservation. “The Prairies and boreal forest are key breeding grounds, and the sites where another great migration will begin in a few months.”

In the Canadian Prairies, wetland conditions in southern Saskatchewan were strong despite low precipitation during the winter and early spring. Located in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, this area is scattered with thousands of shallow wetlands that make up some of the most productive waterfowl habitat in North America. North in the boreal forest, this vast area is covered with trees, rivers, lakes and wetlands that attract millions of ducks, geese and swans every year to breed.

“Some parts of the United States prairie experienced dry conditions over the winter and spring,” says Guyn. “As a result, many birds appear to have skipped areas like North and South Dakota and Montana and landed further north in the Canadian Prairies and boreal forest. That’s why it’s so important that we deliver wetland conservation efforts on a continental scale – to ensure birds always have a productive place to go.”

While both regions continue to produce healthy duck populations, threats are growing. Effective wetland policy is needed across Prairie Canada to address issues like drainage. While growing industrial interests in the boreal forest are beginning to impact this vast and largely pristine area.

“Our work at Ducks Unlimited Canada is to conserve, restore and manage wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife,” says Guyn. “And by doing so, we’re also contributing to a host of other environmental services. That’s because wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They naturally filter pollutants from water, guard against flooding and drought and store vast amounts of carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere.”

Additional information, including the full survey report and species-by-species breakdown can be found on the Ducks Unlimited, Inc. website.