Field Reports: Late-Spring Habitat Conditions 2016

More precipitation will be needed to improve wetland conditions on many important waterfowl breeding areas

By DU Field Biologists

BRITISH COLUMBIA Spring precipitation has been below average throughout much of this province, reducing water levels in some wetland basins. Waterfowl numbers appear similar to last year's, however, and breeding efforts are well under way.

ALBERTA Warm, dry spring weather caused seasonal wetlands to dry up quickly and mudflats to develop around semipermanent wetlands. Cool, wet weather brought much-needed precipitation the third week of May, recharging some wetlands and enhancing the growth of upland cover.

SASKATCHEWAN Spring runoff came early and so did the arrival of waterfowl in this province. By early April ducks and geese were observed in good numbers across Saskatchewan. Wetlands remain full in many important waterfowl breeding areas due to carryover water, and a strong nesting effort is under way.

MANITOBA Minimal runoff and below-average spring precipitation has created variable wetland conditions across southern Manitoba. Temperatures were above normal this spring, resulting in early growth of upland vegetation, including winter wheat, which is providing excellent nesting cover for waterfowl.

ONTARIO Despite cool, dry spring weather, waterfowl breeding efforts appear to be on schedule in this province, with numerous broods of Canada geese and mallards appearing in the south.

QUEBEC This province also experienced cool, dry spring weather, but the St. Lawrence River remained at above-average levels throughout the spring, benefiting breeding and migrating waterfowl.

ATLANTIC CANADA Below-average precipitation resulted in limited spring flooding in this region. The waterfowl breeding effort was slightly ahead of schedule, and the first mallard and black duck broods appeared in May.

NORTH-CENTRAL U.S. Above-average precipitation has helped to alleviate the severity and extent of dry conditions in the Great Plains region, including in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Unseasonably warm weather in April allowed breeding waterfowl to get an early start in areas with suitable wetland conditions.

GREAT LAKES AND NORTHEASTERN U.S. Dry conditions continue to persist across a good portion of the Great Lakes and northeastern United States, adversely affecting wetland conditions. Overall, fair duck production is expected in these areas.

WESTERN U.S. Much-needed precipitation has improved waterfowl habitat conditions in parts of the West, although many areas, including the Central Valley of California, continue to suffer from long-term drought. The outlook for breeding waterfowl is generally good in Alaska, which experienced a very early spring thaw.