Breeding waterfowl populations have decreased by 15% statewide since last year, according to results of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's annual survey.
The total number of ducks of all species decreased from 529,700 in 2013 to 451,300 this year, according to the survey. This estimate is 23% below the long-term average.
Mallards, the most abundant duck in the survey, decreased 23% from 387,100 in 2012 to 298,600 this year.
"Habitat conditions are poor in both northeastern California and the Central Valley, so below-average production for all waterfowl species is not a surprise," CDFW waterfowl program biologist Melanie Weaver said.
The decline was attributed to low spring precipitation with some areas only receiving 34% of average rainfall since Jan. 1.
Population estimates are for surveyed areas only, which include wetlands and agricultural fields in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield and the Suisun Marsh.
The CDFW has conducted the survey since 1955, using fixed-wing aircraft. Data is supplemented from helicopter surveys conducted by the California Waterfowl Association.
Information from this survey, and others, is used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set hunting regulations for that year's waterfowl season.
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