Duck hunters appear to be in for a great hunting season this year if populations are any indication. With all the rain throughout the Midwest, the states directly above us, and the provinces of Canada directly to our north the country we call “the pothole” country is overflowing with water. This in turn leads to great duck production in these states that supply our birds during the southern migration period.
With the increased overall production over last year and the much improved habitat conditions the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued its Trends in Duck Breeding Populations for 2014. These conclusions are based on the 2014 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The preliminary estimate for the total duck population is 49.2 million birds, an 8 percent increase over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds and 43 percent above the long-term average. The report also provides abundance estimates for individual duck species, including mallard, blue-winged teal, northern pintail, American wigeon, lesser and greater scaup, and canvasback, all of which are similar to of slightly above last year’s totals. Most species’ populations, such as mallard and blue-winged teal remain significantly above the long-term average, while others, including scaup and pintail are still below.
The estimated mallard abundance is 10.9 million birds, similar to last year’s 10.4 million birds and 42 percent above the long-term average. Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 8.5 million birds, which is 10 percent above the 2013 estimate of 7.7 million birds and 75 percent above the long-term average.
The northern pintail estimate of 3.2 million birds was similar to last year’s estimate of 3.3 million birds and remains 20 percent below the long-term average. The American wigeon estimates are 18 percent above the 2013 estimate and 20 percent above the long term average.