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Waterfowl

Duck populations down slightly but remain above long-term average

Report estimates 38.9 million breeding ducks in North America

August 19, 2019
Mallard populations are estimated at 9.4 million, similar to 2018 and 19 per cent above the long-term average.
Mallard populations are estimated at 9.4 million, similar to 2018 and 19 per cent above the long-term average. © DUC

According to the 2019 Waterfowl Population Status report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), North American duck populations are estimated at 38.9 million. This is six per cent lower than last year’s estimate of 41.2 million and 10 per cent above the long-term average.

Dry spring conditions in areas of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan contributed to the slight decline.

Stuart Slattery, DUC’s national manager of the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research says some species continued to thrive thanks to quality habitat and ample precipitation in other areas of the Prairie Pothole Region and elsewhere.

The Prairie Pothole Region, which includes southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, offers some of the best breeding habitat in North America. It also extends into North Dakota and South Dakota, which enjoyed wetter conditions this spring.

“We know that precipitation can be highly variable from region to region,” says Slattery, “That’s why it’s so important to conserve habitat across the continent so that birds can go where the conditions are most favourable. These alternatives are what allow populations to remain resilient and is reflective of what we’re seeing this year.”

The Waterfowl Population Status report is based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS, Canadian Wildlife Service, and other partners. Together, they utilize aircraft and keen-eyed ground crews to examine breeding habitat and populations over more than 3.6 million square kilometres of Canada and the northern United States.

“The data from this report is extremely valuable for conservation planning,” says Slattery. “Understanding how birds respond to conditions around them gives us the intel we need to best support their needs.”

Summary of the species estimates from the report

  • Mallard populations are estimated at 9.4 million, similar to 2018 and 19 per cent above the long-term average.
  • Blue-winged teal populations are estimated at 5.4 million, down 16 per cent from 2018 and similar to the long-term average.
  • Gadwall populations are estimated at 3.3 million, similar to 2018 and 61 per cent above the long-term average.
  • Northern shoveler populations are estimated at 3.6 million, down 13 per cent from 2018 and 39% above the long-term average.
  • Green-winged teal populations are estimated at 3.2 million, similar to 2018 and 47 per cent above the long-term average.
  • Redhead populations are estimated at 700,000, down 27 per cent from 2018 and on par with the long-term average.
  • Northern pintail populations are estimated at 2.3 million, similar to 2018 and 42 per cent below the long-term average.
  • American wigeon populations are estimated at 2.8 million, similar to 2018 and similar to the long-term average
  • Canvasback populations are estimated at 0.7 million, similar to 2018 and similar to the long-term average
  • Lesser and greater scaup populations combined are estimated at 3.6 million, similar to 2018 and 28 per cent below the long-term average.

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