By Matt Young
to support healthy waterfowl populations has been Ducks Unlimited's mission
from the beginning, and this "singleness of purpose" continues to inspire today's DU supporters in everything they do for conservation. In recent years, the ducks have once again shown that DU's founders were right in their convictions. Given sufficient habitat on their breeding grounds, especially in the prairie "Duck Factory
," North America's waterfowl are capable of impressive population growth when weather conditions are favorable.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the 2012 estimate of breeding ducks
in the traditional survey area was 48.6 million birds, a 7 percent increase from last year's record total and the largest estimate since annual surveys began in 1955. In especially good news for waterfowlers, mallards
were up 15 percent—from 9.2 million birds in 2011 to 10.6 million this year. Only twice, in 1958 and 1999, have more mallards been recorded during the May survey. Populations of all other major duck species, except northern pintails, were either above or statistically similar to 2011 estimates.
CORRECTION Many habitat reports in this story were provided by DU biologists in the field. In the printed edition, two sources for this information were incorrectly cited. A report attributed to Michael Hill was provided by DU Canada biologist Kelly Rempel and a report attributed to Scott Muir was provided by DU Canada biologist Erling Armson. We deeply regret these errors.