Minnesota waterfowl numbers improved; wetland conditions excellent

Minnesota's 2011 breeding duck and goose populations improved from last year, according to results of the annual Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) spring waterfowl surveys.

The state's estimated breeding duck population was 687,000 compared with last year's estimate of 531,000. This year's estimate is 11 percent above the long-term average of 622,000 breeding ducks.

This year's mallard breeding population was estimated at 283,000, which was 17 percent higher than last year's estimate of 242,000 breeding mallards, 3 percent above the recent 10-year average and 26 percent above the long-term average.

The blue-winged teal population was 214,000 this year compared with 132,000 in 2010, and near the long-term average of 219,000 blue-winged teal.

The combined populations of other ducks, such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads, was 191,000, which is 22 percent higher than last year and 7 percent above the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands (Types II-V) was 360,000, up 33 percent from last year, 44 percent above the long-term average, and the highest wetland count on record.

"When you combine the wet conditions across much of Minnesota last fall, lots of snowpack, and above average spring precipitation, it's not surprising that we saw record wetland numbers across the survey area this spring," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "With such good wetland conditions, I would expect production, or the number of young ducks hatched, to be good this year."

The same waterfowl survey has been conducted each May since 1968 to provide an annual index of breeding duck abundance. The survey covers 40 percent of the state that includes much of the best remaining duck breeding habitat in Minnesota. A DNR waterfowl biologist and pilot count all waterfowl and wetlands along established survey routes by flying low-level aerial surveys from a fixed-wing plane. The survey is timed to begin in early May to coincide with peak mallard nesting activity. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews who also count waterfowl along some of the same survey routes. This data is then used to correct for birds not seen by the aerial crew.

The Canada goose population was estimated at 370,000, which was higher than last year's estimate of 311,000. The number of breeding Canada geese in the state remains high, but has been relatively stable over the past 10 years. Since 2001, the DNR has conducted a helicopter survey of nesting Canada geese in April. The survey, which includes most of the state except the Twin Cities metro area, counts Canada geese on randomly selected plots in prairie, transition and forested areas.

Although breeding duck numbers increased relative to last year, the goal in the DNR's Duck Recovery Plan is to attract and hold a breeding population of 1 million ducks while maintaining Minnesota's rich waterfowling tradition.

"We remain committed to improving breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl in the state as one of our highest priorities," said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief, "but we also realize it will require the DNR and all our partners to continue to focus our efforts to accomplish that long-term goal."

The status of breeding duck populations and wetland conditions in other areas of North America is good to excellent. Total breeding duck numbers increased 11 percent from last year and were 35 percent above the long-term average. Mallard breeding populations increased 9 percent from last year and were 22 percent above the long-term average. Wetland habitat conditions in the Dakotas and southern Canada are near record high levels this spring.

The Minnesota waterfowl report can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

DNR will announce this fall's waterfowl hunting regulations in early August.

Categories: Hunting News, News Archive, Waterfowl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *