While breeding habitat conditions have declined from previous years, waterfowl production in North America is at a record high.
That is the assessment of the 2012 “Trends in Duck Breeding Populations” report. This year’s estimate of 48.6 million birds is significantly higher than the 45.6 million birds estimated last year and 43 percent above the long-term average.
The annual report is a compilation of information about the status of duck populations and wetland habitats collected by wildlife biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Canadian Wildlife Service for the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey. The survey samples more than two million square miles of waterfowl habitat across the United States and Canada.
Among the highlights from the survey in the north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada and Alaska are these population estimates:
Mallard abundance is 10.6 million birds, a 15 percent increase over 2011 and a 39 percent increase over the long-term average of 7.6 million.
Gadwall abundance is 10 percent above the 2011 estimate, and 96 percent above the long-term average.
American wigeon abundance increased 3 percent from 2011, but remains 17 percent below the long-term average.
Abundance of green-winged teal and blue-winged teal were 3.5 million and 9.2 million, which were 20 percent and 3 percent above their 2011 numbers, respectively. Both species continue to remain well above their long-term averages by 74 percent and 94 percent.
Abundance for northern shovelers is 5 million, which is 8 percent above 2011, and 111 percent above their long-term average.
Northern pintails are at 3.5 million which is 22 percent below the 2011 estimate and 14 percent below the long-term average.
Habitat conditions observed across the survey areas during 2012 were characterized by average to below-average moisture, especially in the southern portions; primarily because of a mild winter and an early spring.
The 2012 survey’s estimate of ponds for the north-central U.S. was 1.7 million, which was 49 percent below the 2011 estimate of 3.2 million, and similar to the long-term average. Significant decreases in wetland numbers and conditions occurred in the U.S. prairies this year.
The annual survey guides the Fish and Wildlife Service’s waterfowl conservation programs. The service works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways – the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic – to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits, derived in part from the data gathered through this annual survey.