The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its 2010 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, indicating stable duck numbers. The overall waterfowl population of 40.9 million birds is down just slightly from last year's estimate of 42 million.
Most species estimates are comparable to last year's numbers. Only blue-winged teal showed a significant decline, but fortunately their population remains 36-percent above the long-term average.
Delta Waterfowl's press release notes that this could prove a productive nesting season:
Most of the breeding grounds are today even wetter--in some cases much wetter--than when the surveys were flown in May, which will promote re-nesting and increase brood survival.
For a duck geek like me, the most interesting aspect of the survey is its indication that for the second straight year, and for only the second time ever, more ducks nested on the United States side of the Prairie Pothole Region than on the Canadian side.
Why? Wetland habitat in the Dakotas has been rather good, but Canada, according to Delta, is "broken":
Part of the reason was an all-time record 2.9 million wetlands on the U.S. side of the region, with 2.3 million of those in the eastern Dakotas. Wetlands are what attract nesting ducks, and the U.S. has never been wetter.
Prairie Canada was wetter than normal, led by a 21 percent year-over-year increase in the pond count in southern Saskatchewan. Yet despite being 34 percent wetter than its long-term average, 72 percent fewer pintails and 18 percent fewer mallards settled in Saskatchewan than its historical average.
Once again, the U.S. picked up the slack. More total ducks settled on the U.S. side of the breeding grounds--13.9 million in the Dakotas and eastern Montana as compared to 10.6 million in the prairie portions of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.
That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that two-thirds of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) exists on the Canadian side of the border,” says Delta Scientific Director Dr. Frank Rohwer of Louisiana State University.
Here is a breakdown of the 2010 duck survey in this graph courtesy of Ducks Unlimited: