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Breeding Ducks Down But Still Above Long-Term Average

July 4, 2008.

From the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

Estimate is 9 percent below last year, but 11 percent above
long-term average

The preliminary estimate of total ducks from the 2008 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey was just over 37 million, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This is a 9 percent decline from last year's estimate but still 11 percent greater than the 1955-2007 average. In the U.S. and Canadian prairies, population estimates of many species declined, while populations increased in the boreal forest to the north, likely reflecting that birds flew over the prairies because of drier habitat there.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the world, samples two million square miles across the northcentral and northeastern United States; southcentral, eastern, and northern Canada; and Alaska. The survey estimates the number of ducks on the continent's most important nesting grounds.

Overall, habitat conditions for breeding waterfowl in 2008 were generally similar to or somewhat worse than conditions in 2007. The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and United States combined) was 4.4 million ponds. This was 37 percent below last year's estimate of 7 million ponds and 10 percent below the long-term average of 4.9 million ponds.

The annual survey guides the USFWS's waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The USFWS works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways -- the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central (which includes Kansas), and Pacific -- to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates, and bag limits.

Highlights from the survey in the northcentral United States, southcentral and northern Canada, and Alaska include the following:

  • mallard estimated population of 7.7 million birds, similar to last year's estimate of 8.3 million birds and similar to the long-term average;
  • blue-winged teal estimated population of 6.6 million birds, similar to last year's estimate of 6.7 million birds and 45 percent above the long-term average;
  • green-winged teal estimated population of 3 million, similar to last year and 57 percent above the long-term average;
  • gadwall estimated population of 2.7 million, 19 percent below last year and 56 percent above the long-term average;
  • redhead estimated population of 1.1 million, similar to last year and 66 percent above the long-term average;
  • canvasback estimated population of 489,000, 44 percent below last year's estimate of 865,000 and 14 percent below the long-term average;
  • northern shoveler estimated population of 3.5 million, 23 percent below last year and 56 percent above the long-term average;
  • scaup (lesser and greater combined) estimated population of 3.7 million, similar to last year and 27 percent below the long-term average;
  • northern pintail estimated population of 2.6 million, 22 percent below last year and 36 percent below the long-term average; and
  • American black duck, ring-necked duck, American wigeon, bufflehead, goldeneye, and merganser surveyed in eastern North America estimated as similar to last year, as well as the 1990-2007 averages.

This preliminary report does not include estimates from surveys conducted by state or provincial agencies. The entire 2008 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report can be downloaded from the USFWS website at www.fws.gov/migratorybirds.

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