Mainland duck populations are declining, US Fish and Wildlife Service says in breeding trends report – Grand Forks Herald

The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimated mainland populations of breeding ducks at 34.2 million, down 12% from the 2019 estimate of 38.9 million and 4% below the long-term average since 1955, conservation group Ducks Unlimited said in the survey results.

The federal agency announced the estimate Friday in its

2022 Report on “Trends in Duck Breeding Populations”

which is based on surveys conducted in May and early June by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service and other partners.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last FWS duck breeding population survey report was released in 2019.

Steve Adair, chief scientist of Ducks Unlimited.

Contributed/Unlimited Ducks

“Although the beneficial effects of timely precipitation in late winter and spring were evident by the high number of ponds in the eastern Prairies, the total estimate of ducks in the traditional study area was lowest in nearly 20 years,” said Steve Adair, chief scientist for Ducks. Unlimited.

Here’s a look at the numbers for a few of the waterfowl species included in the report:

  • Mallard: 7.223 million down 23% from 9.423 million in 2019 and 9% below the long-term average.
  • Gadwall: 2.665 million, down 18% from 3.258 million in 2019 but up 30% from the long-term average.
  • Blue-winged teal: 6.485 million, up 19% from 5.427 million in 2019 and up 27% from the long-term average.
  • Pintail: 1.783 million, down 21% from 2.268 million in 2019 and down 54% from the long-term average.
  • Back canvas: 585,000, down 10% from 651,000 in 2019 and 1% below the long-term average.
  • Seal : 3.599 million, statistically unchanged from 3.590 million in 2019 and 28% below the long-term average.

“The drop in duck numbers reflects the consequences of low production caused by several years of prairie drought, including 2021, which was one of the most severe and widespread in nearly 4 decades,” said Adair. “But the survey revealed positives for duck populations and provided optimism for good production this summer and continued favorable pond conditions in the fall and winter.

The number of May ponds, at 5.45 million, was up 9% from 4.99 million in 2019 and 4% from the long-term average.

The nesting surveys that became the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey began in 1947. The main objective of the survey is to provide information on the size and trajectory of the spring population for 19 species or species groups of North American ducks, Canada Geese, American Coots and swans. , and to assess habitat conditions in the parklands of Canada by counting waterfowl breeding ponds.

“DU’s science team will take some time to digest this report and will soon share a more detailed analysis of the survey results with our members,” Adair said.

The data is used to inform hunting regulations in the United States and Canada and provide information for researching the relationships between waterfowl and their habitats, which are essential for effective conservation planning, DU said in a statement. Press.

The results are eagerly awaited by waterfowl, scientists and other bird enthusiasts. Healthy numbers do not guarantee a sky full of ducks. But knowing the state of duck populations helps hunters plan how and where to budget their time and resources.

Each spring, the FWS and CWS send 12 aircrews and five ground crews to the 2 million acre study area, which stretches from Alaska’s Seward Peninsula to the shores of Newfoundland, and south almost to the Nebraska-South Dakota border. The CFS also operates three helicopter crews that survey parts of eastern Canada. For weeks, crews fly, drive, and navigate survey routes that have remained virtually unchanged for over 50 years.

“This year’s survey revealed what many expected, a drop in breeding duck populations, in part because of the drought we’ve experienced in recent years,” Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam said in a statement. communicated. “While we never like to see these declines, we know that dry prairie conditions can increase wetland productivity and set the stage for waterfowl success when the water returns, just as it did this spring. in some parts of the prairie. We won’t stop working on our vision of a waterfowl filled sky today, tomorrow and forever.

In June, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department estimated the number of breeding ducks in the state at 3.4 million birds, up 16% from 2021 and 38% above average at term since 1948. The spring water index is up 616% from 2021, the largest single-year increase on record, the Game and Fish Department reported in June.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in August estimated the total number of breeding ducks for all species except scaup at 567,000, down 18% from the 2019 estimate and 9% below average. long-term. A late spring likely meant the blue-winged teal, a species that migrates relatively late in the season, was still south of Minnesota when the survey began, MNR said. Based on survey results, production is expected to be below average for ducks and geese in Minnesota, the DNR said.