The preliminary 2006 Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates a total duck population of more than 36 million; or a 14 percent increase from last year's estimate and 9 percent above the 1955-2005 average.
The survey indicated an increase in the quality of waterfowl breeding habitat in the United States and Canada from 2005. Improvements in Canadian and U.S. prairie habitats were primarily due to average to above-average precipitation, warm spring temperatures and the good summer conditions of 2005. The higher number of ponds counted in Prairie Canada this year relative to last are a strong indicator of the improved habitat conditions.
"There's a lot of good news in the survey this year for the total duck population and waterfowl breeding habitat," said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Most species increased above the estimates of last year and numbers were above the long term baseline. We're especially excited about the fact that while pintail populations are below their historic average numbers, the survey shows a 32 percent increase in pintail population from the previous year. However, wigeon and scaup are not experiencing those positive trends and that's cause for concern."
The Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the world, samples 1.3 million square miles across the north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada, and Alaska. The survey estimates the number of ducks in the continent's most important nesting grounds.
Annual survey results help guide the Service in managing waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Service works in partnership with state representatives from the four flyways - the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific - that waterfowl and other birds use during their migrations to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits.
Highlights from the survey in the north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada, and Alaska include:The abundance of northern pintails at 3.4 million was 18 percent below the 1955-2005 average, although this year's estimate was 32 percent greater than that of last year.
This preliminary report does not include estimates for the eastern survey area or information from surveys conducted by State or Provincial agencies. The entire 2006 Trends in Waterfowl Breeding Populations report can be downloaded from the Service's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ and will be updated when the data are compiled.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.