WASHINGTON, D.C. For the second straight year, breeding duck populations declined from the record high reached in 1999.
Dry habitat conditions in western Canada and the northwest U.S. likely contributed to a slightly lower population of breeding ducks this spring, according to preliminary results from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual spring aerial surveys.
The total population of breeding ducks found by aerial surveys in traditional survey areas in Canada and the northern United States fell to approximately 36.1 million birds.
That number represents a decline of nearly 14 percent from last year's index of 41.8 million birds, but is still 9 percent above the long term average breeding population since surveys began in 1955.
"After five years of steady increases leading up to the record 1999 season, most duck populations remain healthy but have begun to fall back in line with historic averages," acting Fish and Wildlife Service Director Marshall Jones said. "A significant factor contributing to the recent stability is the progress we've made in stemming the rate of wetland loss and restoring and enhancing wetlands across the country."
Breeding populations of mallards fell 17 percent from 2000 levels to 7.9 million, a level comparable to their long-term average. Blue-winged teal numbers, at 5.8 million, declined 23 percent from 2000 levels but remained 29 percent greater than their long-term average.
The Service remains concerned about the continuing decline of canvasback populations, which have been trending downward since 1996.