USFWS report: Duck numbers still strong

Scaup and other diving duck abundance increased in most areas, according to the most recent waterfowl migration and hunting report.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its 2017 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

According to a news release on the findings of the report Tuesday, Aug. 15, overall duck numbers in the survey area remain solid: Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is similar to last year’s estimate of 48.4 million and is 34 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average. The projected mallard fall flight index is 12.9 million birds, similar to the 2016 estimate of 13.5 million.

According to a release on the report by Ducks Unlimited, the main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the Prairies and the Boreal Forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2017 breeding population survey were generally similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 6.1 million, which is 22 percent above the 2016 estimate of 5 million and 17 percent above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and, ultimately, hunter success, according to the DU release.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting regulations. Individual states set their hunting seasons within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates and bag limits.

According to the report, species estimates are:

  • Mallards: 10.5 million, 11 percent lower than 2016 and 34 percent above LTA.
  • Gadwall: 4.2 million, 13 percent above 2016 and 111 percent above LTA.
  • American wigeon: 2.8 million, 19 percent below 2016 and similar to LTA.
  • Green-winged teal: 3.6 million, 16 percent below 2016 and 70 percent above LTA.
  • Blue-winged teal: 7.9 million, 18 percent above 2016 and 57 percent above LTA.
  • Northern shovelers: 4.4 million, 10 percent above 2016 and 69 percent above LTA.
  • Northern pintails: 2.9 million, 10 percent above 2016 and 27 percent below LTA.
  • Redheads: 1.1 million, 13 percent below 2016 and 55 percent above LTA.
  • Canvasbacks: 0.7 million, similar to 2016 and 25 percent above LTA.
  • Scaup: 4.4 million, 12 percent below 2016 and 13 percent below LTA.
  • Black ducks (Eastern Survey Area): 0.5 million, similar to 2016 and 12 percent below LTA.

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at

Categories: Waterfowl

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