The total population was estimated at 34.2 million.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its 2022 Waterfowl Population Status Report, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS, the Canadian Wildlife Service. (CWS) and other partners.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest FWS Duck Breeding Population Survey was published in 2019.
Total populations were estimated at 34.2 million breeding ducks in the traditional study area, 12% less than the 2019 estimate of 38.9 million and 4% below the long-term average (since 1955).
“Although the beneficial effects of timely precipitation during late winter and spring were evident from the high pond counts in the eastern prairies, the total estimate of ducks in the Traditional Survey Area was the lowest in nearly 20 years. said Dr. Steve Adair, chief scientist at DU. . “The drop in duck numbers reflects the consequences of low production caused by several years of prairie drought, including 2021, which was one of the most severe and widespread in nearly 4 decades. But the survey revealed some bright spots for duck populations and provided optimism for good production this summer and the remnant of favorable pond conditions through the fall and winter.”
The breeding surveys that became the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) began in 1947. The primary purpose of the WBPHS is to provide information on the size and trajectory of the population of spring for 19 species or species groups of North American ducks, Canadian geese, coots, and swans, and to assess habitat conditions in Prairie-Parkland Canada, through counting waterfowl breeding ponds.
“The DU science team will be taking some time to digest this report and will share a more detailed analysis of the survey results with our members soon,” Adair said.
The data is used to inform hunting regulations in the United States and Canada and provides important information for investigating the relationships between waterfowl and their habitats, which are critical to effective conservation planning.
The results are eagerly awaited by waterfowl, scientists and other bird enthusiasts. Healthy numbers don’t guarantee skies full of ducks. But knowing the status of duck populations helps hunters plan how and where to spend their time and resources.
Each spring, the FWS and CWS send 12 aircrews and five ground crews to the 2-million-acre study area, which stretches from Alaska’s Seward Peninsula to the coast of Newfoundland and south nearly to the border between Nebraska and South Dakota. The CWS also operates three helicopter aircrews that survey parts of eastern Canada. For weeks, crews fly, drive and walk inspection routes that have remained virtually unchanged for more than 50 years.
“Whether it’s good news or bad, Ducks Unlimited believes in following the science. We are grateful that our federal, state and provincial partners are resuming surveying to collect the data we all rely on,” said Adam Putnam, CEO of Ducks Unlimited. “This year’s survey revealed what many expected, lower breeding duck populations in part as a result of the drought we have experienced in recent years. While we never like to see these declines, we know that drought in the prairie can increase wetland productivity and sets the stage for waterfowl success when the water returns, as it did this spring in parts of the prairie. We will not stop working towards our vision of skies full of waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world‘North America’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the habitats of continually disappearing waterfowl in North America. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to the contributions of more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of enough wetlands to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information about our work, visit www.patos.org.