North Dakota Waterfowl Survey Shows Wet Conditions, Slight Increase in Duck Breeding

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Last winter’s extreme snowfall in central and eastern North Dakota set the state up for good duck production this spring.

Results from the North Dakota Department of Fish and Game’s annual Breeding Wetlands and Waterfowl Survey reveal good to excellent breeding conditions for ducks.

“We had a lot of snow last winter and ended up with our seventh highest wetland index, which is slightly less than last year (2North Dakota highest ever), but it’s still very, very good,” said Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird supervisor for the NDGFD.

Total duck numbers were estimated to be just over 3.4 million, a slight increase over the breeding population from 2022. While ducks were up overall, mallards were down 10 percent to 640,000. , and blue-winged teal was a bit lower as well, but still a strong 925,000 in the state.

Szymanski reported increases in redheads, canvases, and spades through 2022, but the most pleasant surprise is a 40 percent increase in pintails breeding, returning their breeding populations in North Dakota to numbers not seen in the state. since the 2000s.

While Szymanski said habitat conditions ranged from fair to excellent in North Dakota, heavy rains in key areas in early May should lead to good duck production.

Canada geese numbers declined 27 percent, yet reached an all-time high in 2022. The estimated 297,000 Canada geese represents a strong population, Szymanski said.

Matt Chouinard, director of waterfowl programs based at Delta Waterfowl’s headquarters in Bismarck, North Dakota, reported that seasonal wetlands (small shallow ponds in pastures and crop fields that are so important for duck breeding) they were plentiful in the central and eastern parts of the state. .

“It looks like the conditions for the nesting ducks are a little better this year,” Chouinard said. “I observed many pastures and fields with seasonal ponds and water outside the reed rings in semi-permanent wetlands. That flooded cover helps ducklings avoid predators, and that’s where they’ll go to survive.”

Chouinard also noted that Delta predator management hunters are reporting a strong duck nesting effort this spring as they work to increase duck production.

“If we continue to get rain, any duck that loses a first nest will have a good chance to nest again this year, and it will also help increase hatchling survival,” Chouinard said.

North Dakota is a leading duck producing state, and a strong breeding season will feed ducks in all four flyways this fall.

North Dakota’s annual survey serves as a first major index of breeding duck numbers in the critical pothole region of the prairies. Conditions are generally good throughout the PPR, although parts of the Saskatchewan and Alberta prairies are dry.

Just what kind of fall flight to expect will be in focus in the coming months. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service are completing and collecting data for the 2023 Breeding Population and Habitat Survey of Waterfowl. Results are expected to be released in August. The survey estimated the total duck population at 34.2 million in 2022.

delta waterfowl is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to raise ducks and secure the future of North American waterfowl hunting. Visit

For more information, contact Matt Chouinard at