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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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Central Flyway 

The majority of Central Flyway waterfowl are raised on the prairies of the United States and Canada, as well as in the western boreal forest and the Arctic. Saskatchewan consistently ranks at the top of North America's most important waterfowl breeding areas, and this year was no exception. More than 11.3 million breeding ducks were surveyed across the vast grasslands and parklands of this province—similar to the 2011 estimate and 50 percent above the long-term average. As in Alberta, frequent precipitation maintained or improved wetland conditions across much of this province during late spring and early summer. 

"Southern Saskatchewan experienced several rounds of severe thunderstorms in June. Many of these storms produced locally heavy rainfall, which flooded fields and recharged temporary wetlands, which are very important to breeding waterfowl," reports DU Canada biologist Kelly Rempel. "As summer progressed, our field staff observed many broods of all duck species, and we continued to see young broods well into July, which suggested a strong renesting effort had occurred. Overall, we anticipate this will be another good year for waterfowl production in Saskatchewan."  

Drier weather prevailed across North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, where May pond numbers declined by almost 50 percent from the previous year. An estimated 14.9 million breeding ducks were surveyed in these states in 2012—similar to last year's population of 15.7 million birds. In the eastern Dakotas, total breeding ducks were 162 percent above the long-term average, while in the western Dakotas and Montana total duck numbers were 49 percent above the long-term average.

Dr. Jim Ringelman, director of conservation programs at DU's Great Plains office in Bismarck, North Dakota, anticipates that duck production will be slightly better than average in the Great Plains states this year. "In central North Dakota, semipermanent wetlands and even some seasonal wetlands held up well into the summer," Ringelman says. "Drier conditions prevailed in much of South Dakota and eastern Montana. As evidenced by the survey results, the duck population has built up in this region, and we have lots of birds returning to the prairies. Even though it was drier this year, the sheer numbers of birds and sufficient carryover water from last year should result in a good fall flight from the U.S. prairies." 

The outlook for Central Flyway goose populations is mixed. The USFWS reports that spring weather and habitat conditions were generally favorable for Arctic-nesting Canada geese, Ross's geese, and midcontinent white-fronted geese, and populations of these birds should be similar to or larger than last year's. Breeding success among midcontinent lesser snow geese, however, appears to have been below average due to a late spring thaw and flooding on their breeding grounds. As a result, this year's fall flight of lesser snows will likely include a lower proportion of juvenile birds. 

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