Even with the majority of nesting habitat across the breadth of North America this year characterized as no better than middling (fair to good), its duck populations made a record showing.
Annual nesting ground surveys conducted by U.S. and Canadian federal biologists this spring yielded counts totaling 48.6 million ducks, the highest mid-continent estimate of breeding ducks in the modern era (since 1955).
This total duck abundance is 43 percent higher than the long-term average.
Included in this estimate are individual species counts for mallards, gadwall, American widgeon, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, scaup, northern pintail, shovelers, redheads and canvasbacks. In addition, this sum-total includes American black, ring-necked and ruddy ducks as well as buffleheads and goldeneye.
Of the 10 major species, only northern pintails and redheads demonstrated a drop in abundance from 201l numbers, down 22 and 6 percent, respectively. All other species exceeded 2011′s estimated head counts.
Besides the year-to-year comparisons, by two other metrics – long-term average numbers and target population levels – this year’s breeding duck populations are looking quite good.