Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

White geese take flight in the Sacramento Valley. Ducks Unlimited is funding a study that examines the impacts of white geese on the Pacific Flyway.

Ducks Unlimited and its scientific partners have several studies planned or underway to study waterfowl and their habitats in the Pacific Flyway.

“Ducks Unlimited is committed to using science to guide all of our conservation efforts,” said Dr. Mark Petrie, a waterfowl scientist and director of conservation planning for DU’s Western Region. “These studies will help us understand how and where to best to use our supporters’ dollars to invest in on-the-ground conservation that makes a real difference for waterfowl.”

Below are some of the research projects Ducks Unlimited is either funding or participating in to better understand waterfowl and their habitats in the West.

Wrangel Island and Western Arctic lesser snow geese

Ducks Unlimited is funding a study led by the University of Saskatchewan that examines growing populations of white geese in the Pacific Flyway. White goose numbers continue to be a conservation concern, especially since the geese compete for food with dabbling ducks. Key objectives for this study include the development of a population model for Wrangel Island and Western Arctic lesser snow geese that includes banding, productivity and population survey information, and to better understand the influence of hunting and other environmental factors on population growth.

Public land and waterfowl in Washington’s North Puget Sound

North Puget Sound supports the highest density of wintering waterfowl on the U.S. Pacific Coast, but birds are overwhelmingly dependent on agricultural foods in this region, even while the agricultural landscape is rapidly changing. This study, led by DU and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, is assessing how many birds the landscape can support and the future role of public lands in offsetting effects on waterfowl.

Floodplain reactivation, waterfowl and hunting in the Sacramento Valley

The lack of floodplain habitat for salmon and other migratory fish in the Sacramento Valley in California has contributed to their decline. As a result, there are proposals to manage floodplain habitats to benefit fish. This study, led by a team in Ducks Unlimited’s Western Region, will determine the effects of floodplain reactivation for fish on waterfowl and Sacramento Valley waterfowl hunting.

Conservation planning for waterfowl and people in California’s Central Valley

Waterfowl hunters and rice farmers are critical supporters of waterfowl conservation in the Central Valley of California. This study, by DU and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, examines how to integrate objectives for waterfowl populations and conservation supporters by identifying actions that can meet the needs of waterfowl, waterfowl hunters and Central Valley rice producers.

Pacific Flyway water analysis

The California Central Valley, Great Salt Lake and Southern Oregon/Northeastern California region collectively support 70% of all ducks in the Pacific Flyway. Each of these areas is facing long-term water shortages. Because they share birds throughout fall and winter, the effects on waterfowl habitats and populations may be compounded. This study, by DU and biologists at the Central Valley and Intermountain West joint ventures, will examine the potential consequences of regional water shortages for Pacific Flyway waterfowl and identify conservation strategies to reduce the negative impacts on birds.

Greenhouse gas study at Hill Slough

The Hill Slough Restoration Project in California will restore 603 acres of managed seasonal wetlands and 46 acres of upland habitat to tidal wetlands. DU is partnering with researchers at UC Berkeley to measure pre- and post-construction greenhouse gas emissions at the site. The project provides a unique opportunity to investigate carbon sequestration in a restored brackish wetland.

California breeding mallards

DU is teaming up with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to capture hen mallards in northeastern California and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and fit them with transmitters. These marked birds will be used to better understand nest locations, nest fate and nesting efforts, as well as post breeding season movements and distribution throughout the Central Valley.

California’s drought and waterfowl distribution and habitat

During fall of 2022, waterfowl in the Central Valley of California experienced record drought. In this USGS and DU study, researchers captured mallards, pintails, white-fronted geese and snow geese and put satellite transmitters on them to determine the effects of drought on habitat use and distribution of these birds compared to normal water years.

Mexican ducks

Ducks Unlimited is helping scientists learn more about the unique lifecycle of the Mexican duck, a mallard-like bird native to Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. that was recently declared its own species. Read more about that study here.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing wetlands. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved 16 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. For more information, visit, and be sure to Follow DU's Twitter feed – @DucksUnlimited and @DUConserve – to get the most up-to-date news from Ducks Unlimited.

Media Contact:
Ryan Sabalow, Western Region - Communications Coordinator
(916) 805-1210