The much-anticipated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations is in, and the news bodes well for waterfowlers.
The survey estimates an 8 percent increase in breeding duck populations — the preliminary estimate for total duck population is 49.2 million, up almost four million from last year.
“The news from this year’s report is excellent,” says Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited. “The last couple of years have been very strong for breeding birds, and have produced a wonderful fall flight for us to all enjoy in the U.S.”
The nearly 50 million estimated ducks is 43 percent higher than the 1955-2013 long-term average, and lengthens a three-year trend of exceptional water conditions and breeding habitats.
DU CEO Dale Hall noted that precipitation has filled vital wetlands in important breeding habitats, which will hopefully produce another great flight of birds come fall.
“While we still have much work to do in delivering habitat and securing key conservation policies for sustaining these populations, we are heartened by the good results we have seen in the past few years,” Hall said.
The key component for duck breeding population is wetland and upland habitat conditions of the parries and boreal forest. According to DU, conditions across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas were improved or similar to last year. Total pond counts are over 7 million, which is 40 percent above the long-term average.
Many management programs use the spring survey for scientific basis, and the results are factored into determining hunting season dates and bag limits. The USFWS and four flyway councils will meet in late July to recommend the season dates and bag-limits for 2014-15.