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2012 Waterfowl Forecast

Another large fall flight is expected after waterfowl break more records on the breeding grounds
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  • photo by Michaelfurtman.com
  • photo by Michaelfurtman.com
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Mississippi Flyway

The Mississippi Flyway receives most of its waterfowl from the Prairie Pothole Region, as well as from Ontario, the Great Lakes states, and western boreal forest. In southern Manitoba, a dry spring resulted in a 39 percent decline in May ponds compared to last year's estimates. Total breeding duck numbers, however, were essentially unchanged in this region. In addition, the same wet weather pattern that soaked Alberta and Saskatchewan in June also brought much-needed precipitation to southern Manitoba. 

"Frequent rain events improved wetland conditions in the southwest pothole country, which had been dry earlier in the spring, and even caused localized flooding along some watercourses. These conditions supported a strong waterfowl breeding effort," reports DU Canada biologist Mark Francis. "Puddle duck broods appeared to be particularly abundant this summer, and brood sizes were large on average, likely because of favorable weather conditions. In addition, we continued to see young broods well into July, which indicates that later-nesting species such as blue-winged teal and gadwalls had good nesting success, as well as renesting mallards and other early nesters." 
Drier weather prevailed in neighboring Ontario, but wetland habitat was sufficient to support breeding waterfowl across much of this province. 

"Large numbers of breeding pairs settled in Ontario this year, which was confirmed by the USFWS-CWS survey," reports DU Canada biologist Erling Armson. "Summer temperatures were average, while precipitation was below average. As a result, most seasonal and semipermanent wetlands went dry or were at relatively low levels by late July. Fortunately, we have many permanent wetlands with more stable water levels in this province, and brood-rearing habitats remained in good shape except in southwestern Ontario, which had particularly dry conditions. Overall, we anticipate typical waterfowl production and a good fall flight." 

Mallards and other waterfowl raised in the Great Lakes states (Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin) make a large contribution to the harvest in the eastern Mississippi Flyway and the mid-Atlantic region. In 2012, an estimated 860,000 mallards were surveyed in the Great Lakes states, similar to the previous year's estimate and the long-term average. While much of the Great Lakes region was drier than average when waterfowl returned this spring, wetland conditions improved following late spring rains, benefiting breeding waterfowl. 

The outlook for Mississippi Flyway goose populations is generally positive. Among northern-nesting Canada geese, the USFWS reports that the Mississippi Valley, Eastern Prairie, and Southern James Bay populations should have fall flights similar to last year's. Above-average production was observed among midcontinent white-fronted and Ross's geese, and populations of these geese remain healthy. Breeding success among lesser snow geese, however, was likely below average this year, so fewer juvenile birds are expected in this year's fall flight.      

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