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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2006

Surveys find duck numbers up

July 30, 2006

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Duck hunters should be smiling this fall.

Based on May surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, western breeding ducks and habitats have increased 14 percent from last year.

The preliminary report showed an estimated 36.2 million ducks on the prairies. Habitat conditions were also slightly better than last year, thanks to a warm winter and good precipitation.

One of the most important elements in duck-breeding success is the amount of water present on the prairie breeding grounds. The May survey showed the U.S. and Canada with 6.1 million ponds, a 13 percent increase from last year's estimate, and 26 percent higher than the long-term average.

Those numbers, along with timely precipitation this spring and summer, should create quality conditions for nesting and brood rearing this summer.

Pintail numbers are up 32 percent although still 18 percent below the long-term average. Most other species increased this year as well.

Blue-winged teal jumped 28 percent with an estimated 5.9 million birds, 30 percent above the long-term average. Green-winged teal also climbed 20 percent to 2.6 million birds, 39 percent above the long-term average.

Other species include an estimated 2.8 million breeding gadwall, boosting their population by 30 percent from last year and 67 percent above the long-term average.

Redheads increased 55 percent with 916,000 birds, 47 percent above the long-term average. Meanwhile, canvasbacks jumped 33 percent from last year, with an estimated 691,000 breeding birds, 23 percent above the long-term average.

Northern shovelers multiplied to 3.7 million, 69 percent above the long-term average.

On a less positive note, some species increased at a slower rate. Mallard populations, for instance, showed only an 8 percent increase with an estimated 7.3 million on the prairies this spring, compared to last year's estimate of 6.8 million mallards.

Also, wigeon numbers dropped 2 percent, to 2.2 million birds, 17 percent below the long-term average, and scaup slipped by 4 percent, continuing a long-term pattern that has persisted for the last 20 years. Scaup are now 37 percent below the long-term average.

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