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Banding Together for Waterfowl

2012 Waterfowl Forecast

Another large fall flight is expected after waterfowl break more records on the breeding grounds
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  • photo by DU Member, Kenneth Balch
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Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway receives most of its waterfowl from the western United States and Canada, with the majority of the flyway's ducks and geese coming from Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, and other western states. In 2012, an estimated 4.8 million breeding ducks were surveyed across the grasslands and parklands of Alberta—an 11 percent increase from the 2011 estimate and 14 percent above the long-term average. Populations of all major duck species except pintails were either above or similar to last year's estimates in this region. 

As in other parts of prairie Canada, much of Alberta received beneficial precipitation after May waterfowl surveys were completed.

"Precipitation totals in June and July were normal to well above normal across most of the province. This maintained water levels and even improved wetland conditions in some areas," says DU Canada biologist Ian McFarlane. "Good nesting cover was present throughout the province, and pastures were in excellent condition. June rains delayed haying somewhat and also improved yields. Our field staff have observed good numbers of broods of all duck species throughout the province. Overall, we anticipate average or slightly above-average waterfowl production in this province." 

Large numbers of Pacific Flyway waterfowl are also raised in the western boreal forest of northern Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. An estimated 8.8 million breeding ducks were surveyed in this region—a 24 percent increase from the previous year's estimate. Farther north, in Alaska and the Yukon, duck numbers were up 19 percent, reaching a total of almost 4.5 million breeding birds. This estimate included almost 1.2 million breeding pintails, a 58 percent increase from the previous year's estimate. Habitat conditions were mixed this year across the northern "bush" country. While some areas of the western boreal forest were drier than average, an early spring thaw ensured that many wetlands were ice free when waterfowl returned, encouraging breeding pairs to settle and begin nesting. 
In the western United States, habitat conditions were highly variable for breeding waterfowl. In California, the abundance of both mallards and total ducks was similar to last year and the long-term average, and typical waterfowl production is expected in areas with suitable wetland habitat. In Washington and Oregon, both total ducks and mallards were up, and wetland conditions were generally good for breeding waterfowl. Elsewhere in the Intermountain West, however, severe drought has taken a toll on wetlands in many areas, and poor waterfowl production is expected across much of this region. 

The outlook for Pacific Flyway goose populations is positive. The USFWS reports that spring weather and habitat conditions were generally favorable for breeding geese in the western Arctic, with the exception of Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, where a late thaw and spring flooding adversely affected breeding efforts. Surveys indicate that most Pacific Flyway goose populations should be average or similar to last year.

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