Waterfowl breeding survey results show a sharp decline

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its survey of the 2022 waterfowl breeding population. The data obtained indicates that the total number of breeding ducks has decreased by 19%, including mallards which are the most common ducks. more abundant in the survey.

“Surveys have indicated a 25% decline in mallard abundance,” said CDFW Waterfowl Program biologist Melanie Weaver. “Habitat conditions are poor in both northeastern California and the Central Valley, so below average production for most waterfowl species is expected.”

The full report of the breeding population survey, which can be viewed on the CDFW website, indicates that the total number of ducks (all species combined) fell from 470,450 in 2019 (the last year the survey was conducted) to 379,870 this year. This estimate is 30% lower than the long-term average. The estimated mallard breeding population has fallen from 239,830 in 2019 to 179,390 this year, which is lower than their long-term average. The decline is attributed to continued drought and loss of upland nesting habitat for ducks.

CDFW biologists and pilot wardens have conducted this survey annually using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. Population estimates are for areas where most waterfowl nest in California, including areas wetlands and agricultural areas of northeastern California throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Swamp, and some coastal valleys.

The majority of the duck population wintering in California comes from breeding areas surveyed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada, and those results should be available by August. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when establishing hunting regulations for Pacific Flyway states. Pacific flyway, including California.