Breeding duck numbers hit record high

Click here to view largerThe continental duck population has soared to a record high, according to survey results released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has conducted the annual survey since 1955.

The previous high was 48.6 million in 2012. Last year’s estimate, 45.6 million, is the third-highest on record. This year’s estimate is 8 percent higher than last year.

This year’s survey also found wet conditions on the breeding grounds of the United States and Canada. The May pond counts were 40 percent higher than the long-term average.

“Exceptional water this year will lead to high duck production,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl. “When the prairies are really wet, ducks settle in the best quality habitat. Hens will nest and renest vigorously, and duckling survival will be high.”

The population of many surveyed species were found to be at high levels. Mallard (10.9 million) and gadwall (3.81 million) counts were the second-highest ever recorded.

Blue-winged teal were at their third-highest level ever, while the estimated breeding populations of shovelers and redheads were the highest ever for those species.

Canvasback and pintail populations declined from last year. Canvasback numbers fell 13 percent, to 685,000, while pintail numbers declined by 3 percent to 3.22 million.

Said Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited: “It looks like another good waterfowl breeding year for a good portion of the prairies and the boreal forest. Precipitation in the form of snow and rain has provided sufficient water to fill important wetlands in key breeding habitats. We hope this will result in good production and another great flight of birds migrating in the fall.”

The survey report is available here.

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