Waterfowl populations soar in latest survey
Improved conditions in much of the waterfowl breeding habitat in Canada and prairies in the north-central states have contributed to higher populations of most species of ducks, based on surveys conducted in May and June by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Total populations were estimated at 45.6 million breeding ducks on the surveyed area, an 11% increase over the 2010 estimate of 40.9 million birds. The impressive population estimate is 35% greater than the 1955-2010 long-term average and only the fifth time in the survey's history that the total duck population exceeded 40 million.
"When Alberta has a good production spring and summer, we'll have a good year, with lots of wintering ducks in the Grasslands of Merced County," said Roger Wilbur, habitat supervisor for the Department of Fish and Game's Los Banos Wildlife Area. "It's a fact you can count on."
The Grasslands is a 200,000-acre mosaic of wetlands, uplands and riparian zones, the largest remaining wetlands complex in the Central Valley. The region, which is made up of national wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas and private duck clubs, attracts the heaviest concentration of wintering ducks that migrate along the Pacific Flyway, the traditional north-south route flown by millions of ducks and geese.
Wilbur expects local production of ducks, as well as non-hunted shorebirds and wading birds, to be exceptional, too.