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Duck Numbers Up
Experts credit improved habitat on northern breeding grounds
Memphis, July 3, 2003¯The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released the
breeding duck population and May pond numbers from its 2003 survey,
conducted each year in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Numbers of birds and habitat conditions have improved greatly over what was
observed in 2002. Overall duck numbers are at 36.2 million birds, up from
the 31.2 million birds estimated in 2002. The index for breeding habitat
conditions stood at 5.2 million ponds, 91% above the 2.7 million counted in
last year.
"These results pretty well confirm what our staff and others in the breeding
areas have been observing this spring," says Dr. Bruce Batt, DU's Chief
Biologist. DU's Executive Vice President, Don Young, notes, "This is great
news following the extremely dry winter that we had across these same areas.
The extraordinary snow and rains that started in April have provided
much-needed moisture that will benefit waterfowl and the farming community.
That precipitation, along with habitat put in place by DU and other groups
and vital federal habitat programs like CRP are combining to produce an
effective recipe for duck production."

"The fall flights should be improved as a result of these conditions" notes
Young, "but as always, hunting success in any given location is very much
affected by regional and local weather conditions. For many duck hunters,
especially in the southern U.S., a good old-fashioned winter would be a
welcome change after unusually warm and wet winters during the past two
seasons kept many birds from migrating very far south."
Each of the 10 most common species of duck is up from last year. Mallards
are at 7.9 million birds, relative to the 7.5 million counted in 2002.
"We are especially glad to see the jump in pintail numbers by 43% from 1.8
million to 2.6 million," says Batt. "Conditions on the prairies were just
right when they arrived. So, unlike the pattern of recent years, they appear
to be putting in a very good nesting effort." Pintails remain of great
concern as they are still 39% below their long-term average. Nevertheless,
this relief from the recent trends is welcome.
The other species of concern is scaup. Their numbers are up slightly from
3.5 million to 3.7 million birds. Both pintails and scaup are the subjects
of major new research efforts. DU and many partners in the U.S. and Canada
have developed extensive new management efforts to resolve the pintail
problem. But the cause of the scaup decline is not yet fully understood and
new management approaches are not yet readily available.
Waterfowl managers have adopted the population goals of the North American
Waterfowl Management Plan against which to measure the progress of
management efforts across the continent. Of the 10 most common duck
species, only the pintail and scaup are seriously below the Plan's goals, by
54% and 40%, respectively. Wigeon are up by 9% but still 14% below goal.
All others, including mallards, are above or very near the goals in 2003.
Gadwall numbers are up 14% over last year and continue to be well above the
goal, and green-winged teal are up by 15%. Northern shovelers showed a very
large increase to 3.6 million birds, 82% above their goal. Relative to last
year, the other two common diving ducks, canvasbacks and redheads, are up by
15% and 13%, respectively¯a welcome change from steady declines during the
previous two years.

Blue-winged teal are at 5.5 million birds, a number that will be welcomed by
hunters that participate in the September teal season, because a longer
season is prescribed when the population is above 4.7 million birds.
"These increases are mostly the result of much better conditions on the
prairies, which stimulated the birds to stop and breed," says Batt. "Upland
nesting habitat is the other critical element that drives nesting success.
It will be improved this year because of the generous rains but, for the
long-term, we still have a great deal to do to improve and secure improved
nesting conditions, especially in Canada." DU continues to work diligently
to resolve those issues and is seeing promising improvements in some areas
as agricultural policies and practices change in ways that are more
beneficial for waterfowl.
"Two exciting initiatives in this regard arise from DU's leadership in
improving Canadian upland cover," explains Young. " The first is an expanded
winter wheat program, and the second is a new conservation cover program
developed with agriculture Canada."
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest
and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The
United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands *
nature's most productive ecosystems * and continues to lose more than
100,000 wetland acres each year.

Look for Ducks Unlimited on the World Wide Web at Tune in to
The World of Ducks Unlimited Radio Network, and watch Ducks Unlimited
Television on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN).
Release courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

· Registered
254 Posts
Thank goodness for rains in late April, May and June....After this winter and the lack of snow cover across the Northern Plains and southern Canada things were not looking good at looked like a drought was inevitable. Wet weather has rejuvenated potholes again this summer! Can't wait for the fall!!
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