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2013 Waterfowl Forecast

Good habitat conditions on the breeding grounds should result in another large fall flight this year
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Central Flyway

The Central Flyway receives most of its waterfowl from the Prairie Pothole Region, with the majority of ducks coming from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Most of the flyway's geese, as well as most of its scaup, American wigeon, and green-winged teal, are raised in the Western Boreal Forest and Arctic. 

Saskatchewan consistently ranks at the top of North America's most important waterfowl breeding areas. In 2013, an estimated 12.3 million breeding ducks were surveyed across southern Saskatchewan—an 8 percent increase from the previous year's population and the largest estimate since 1957. 

DU Canada Conservation Programs Specialist Kelly Rempel reports that southern Saskatchewan had another unusually wet spring and early summer in 2013. "Habitat conditions remain good to excellent across the prairie and parkland regions due to continued precipitation. In many areas, temporary wetlands and even some sheet water were still present on the landscape in July, and native pastures provided good to excellent nesting cover. Our observations suggest that waterfowl production has been very good in the province this year. Field staff are seeing above-average brood numbers, including numerous late broods, which indicates a strong renesting effort," Rempel says. 

In the north-central United States, approximately 12.2 million breeding ducks were surveyed in 2013—an 18 percent decrease from last year's total of almost 14.9 million birds. In the eastern Dakotas, breeding ducks decreased roughly 14 percent this spring, but remained a remarkable 119 percent above the long-term average. In the western Dakotas and Montana, duck numbers declined 35 percent from the previous year and were similar to the long-term average. 

In May, widespread rainfall greatly improved wetland conditions for breeding ducks across the northern plains. "Field reports from early brood surveys indicate good production in areas of Montana and the Dakotas with abundant seasonal wetlands," says Dr. Johann Walker, director of conservation planning at DU's Great Plains office. "The current wetland habitat base continues to sustain abundant ducks, but the lack of effective wetland protection policy in prairie Canada combined with the potential for significant weakening of wetland protection in the United States is a serious concern. Rapid, widespread loss and degradation of unprotected wetlands on private lands in the Prairie Pothole Region could quickly bring the good times for duck populations to an end and result in further declines of vulnerable species like pintails. As a result, efforts to protect shallow prairie wetlands on working agricultural lands are more important than ever."

The goose population outlook in the Central Flyway is bright. Good production was expected among Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and Ross's geese in this flyway. Variable production was reported among lesser snow geese, but these birds should have another large fall flight in 2013. 

Forecast by Flyway:

Pacific Flyway  | Central Flyway  |  Mississippi Flyway  |  Atlantic Flyway
 

 
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