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Banding Together for Waterfowl

State of the Ducks

A closer look at the remarkable diversity of North America's ducks and the status of their populations
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Edited by Dale Humburg

Generally speaking, we live in an era of abundant waterfowl populations. Most goose populations are currently healthy, and duck populations have reached the highest levels recorded since breeding ground surveys were standardized in 1955. In the traditional survey area, which encompasses the prairies, parklands, and much of the Western Boreal Forest and Alaska, total breeding duck numbers have averaged 41.8 million birds during the past decade, peaking at 49.2 million in 2014. In the eastern survey area, encompassing much of eastern Canada and parts of the northeastern United States, surveys indicate that breeding ducks have been relatively stable, averaging 2.65 million birds over the past 25 years. When other surveys are included from states in the West, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeast, the continent's total annual population of breeding ducks is upwards of 60 million birds.

North America is blessed with a remarkable variety of ducks comprising some 35 species. These birds have filled diverse ecological niches across this continent, resulting in great variation among species in physical appearance, distribution, breeding habits, food preferences, and a number of other characteristics. While most ducks are commonly classified as either dabblers or divers, taxonomists have grouped the birds into more specific assemblages of six "tribes." Within these tribes, some duck populations are increasing, others are generally stable, and still others have recently suffered declines. The following review of each tribe provides a general summary of the state of North America's ducks as well as the challenges currently facing their conservation.

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