Waterfowl production is expected to be very good this year. Record flooding levels have left wetlands inundated throughout southwest breeding areas, and an unprecedented 3 million acres of cropland remains unseeded. Frequent rains continue, and cooler summer temperatures have recently been replaced by more seasonal highs.
Waterfowl are responding well to the wet conditions. According to the USFWS/CWS survey, 41 percent more breeding birds settling in the traditional Manitoba survey area this year compared to 2010. Populations of several species are above or near the LTA, including mallards, canvasbacks, blue-winged teals and gadwalls. This is not surprising given the increased number of ponds available.
Anecdotal brood observations indicate that waterfowl are doing quite well despite two setbacks that occurred early in the season: the snow event of April 30 and the flooding of nests, which had serious and widespread impacts on early-nesting species. Both of these events occurred early in the nesting season, and birds quickly renested. The mixed ages of Canada goose broods provide evidence of this renesting effort.
Nesting birds have also benefited from the lack of nest disturbance this year. With approximately 20 percent of the land not cultivated this year, birds that nest in these croplands will likely have improved nest success compared to other years. This will bode especially well for species that tend to nest in sparse cover, such as the northern pintail. In addition, wet conditions have significantly delayed haying operations this year, and very little hay is being cut at this time. This will have a tremendous positive impact on upland nesting species that will be able to exit these habitats prior to haying operations.
With the abundance of water everywhere in sourthern Manitoba, brood survival is expected to be high this year and should offset any setbacks that occurred earlier in the season.