2013 Duck Numbers Remain Strong

Despite slight declines, most species remain well above long-term averages

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently released its report on 2013 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 45.6 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This estimate represents a 6 percent decrease from last year's estimate of 48.6 million birds, and is 33 percent above the 1955-2012 long-term average.

"This spring saw abundant moisture in much of the heart of North America's most important duck breeding areas," said DU Chief Scientist Dale Humburg. "That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and hopefully, for hunting this fall. But we remain concerned with continuing loss of nesting habitat in these areas. Because ducks need both water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the ongoing loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will continue to impact the number of ducks in the fall flight.

"We must maintain our focus on protecting and restoring important habitat across the birds' range in order to see these kinds of numbers in future wet years," said DU CEO Dale Hall.

2013 Duck Numbers

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2013 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey were improved or similar to last year in many areas due to average to above average annual precipitation, with the exception being southeastern Canada, south-central Alberta along the Montana border, the northeast U.S. and portions of Montana and the Dakotas. Total pond counts for the United States and Canada combined showed 6.9 million ponds, a 24-percent increase from last year's estimate and 35-percent above the long-term average.

Of the 10 species surveyed, 7 were similar to last year’s estimates, including mallardsScaup and blue-winged teal were significantly below last year's estimates. American wigeon were 23 percent above last year. Mallards, similar in number to 2012, are 36 percent above the long-term average. Two species (northern pintail and scaup – lesser and greater combined) remained below their long-term average and North American Waterfowl Management Plan goals.

"This year we also experienced very late winter conditions across much of the United States and Canada," said Humburg. "These conditions delayed the arrival of some ducks on their traditional breeding grounds and may have impacted breeding and nesting success."

"Even with abundant moisture on the prairies and good breeding success this year, the weather and habitat conditions the birds encounter on their fall migrations can impact local hunting success. Many areas along traditional migration routes are experiencing significant drought, and this will likely have an effect on how many birds hunters see this fall. Other areas have seen excessive moisture, which could affect food supplies for migrating birds. And, as always, weather patterns can also have a huge impact on local hunting conditions and the timing of the migration."

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting season dates and bag limits. The four flyway councils and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee will meet in late July to recommend  season structure and bag limits for 2013-14. Individual states will make their specific selections within a federal framework of season length, bag limit and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates.

Click here to view a species-by-species breakdown.

2013 Mallard Numbers

The mallard is the most common duck in the United States, with the greatest abundance between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains.

2013: 10.372 million -2% from last year
2012: 10.602 million

Mallards remain +36% over the long-term average.

Learn more about mallards in our waterfowl identification gallery.

2013 Gadwall Numbers

2013: 3.351 million  -7% change from last year
2012: 3.586 million

Gadwall remain +80% over the long-term average.

Learn more about gadwalls in our waterfowl identification gallery. 

 

2013 American Wigeon Numbers

2013: 2.644 million +23% change from last year
2012: 2.145 million

Wigeon numbers are +2% above the long-term average.

Learn more about American wigeons in our waterfowl identification gallery.

 

2013 Green-winged Teal Numbers

2013: 3.053 million  -12% from last year
2012: 3.471 million

Green-winged teal remain +51% above the long-term average.

Learn more about green-winged teal in our waterfowl identification gallery.

 

2013 Blue-winged Teal Numbers

2013: 7.732 million -16% from last year
2012: 9.242 million

Blue-winged teal remain +60% over the long-term average.

Learn more about blue-winged teal in our waterfowl identification gallery.

2013 Northern Shoveler Numbers

2013: 4.751 million -5% from last year
2012: 5.018 million

Northern Shoveler numbers remain +96% over the long-term average.

Learn more about northern shovelers in our waterfowl identification gallery.

2013 Northern Pintail Numbers

2013: 3.335 million -4% change from last year
2012: 3.473 million

Northern pintail numbers are -17% below the long-term average.

Learn more about northern pintails in our waterfowl identification gallery.

2013 Redhead Numbers

2013: 1.202 million -5% from last year
2012: 1.270 million

Redhead numbers are +76% over the long-term average.

Learn more about redheads in our waterfowl identification gallery.

2013 Canvasback Numbers

2013: 0.787 million +4% from last year
2012: 0.760 million

Canvasbacks are +37% above the long-term average.

Learn more about canvasbacks in our waterfowl identification gallery.

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2013 Scaup Numbers

2013: 4.166 million -20% from last year
2012: 5.239 million

Scaup remain -17% below the long-term average

Learn more about greater scaup and lesser scaup in our waterfowl identification gallery.