News Release

2008 Waterfowl Survey Shows Ducks Breeding Farther North, Bypassing Dry Prairies

July 11, 2008

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Division of Public Affairs
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Telephone: 703-358-2220
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The preliminary estimate of total ducks from the 2008 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey was just over 37 million, which is a nine percent decline from last years estimate, but still 11 percent greater than the 1955-2007 average. In the U.S. and Canadian prairies, population estimates of many species declined; while populations increased in the boreal forest to the north, likely reflecting in part those birds that overflew the prairies because of drier habitat conditions there.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the world, samples two million square miles across the north-central and northeastern United States, south-central, eastern, and northern Canada, and Alaska. The survey estimates the number of ducks on the continents most important nesting grounds.

Overall, habitat conditions for breeding waterfowl in 2008 were generally similar to or somewhat worse than to conditions in 2007.  The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and United States combined) was 4.4 million ponds.  This was 37 percent below last years estimate of 7.0 million ponds and 10 percent below than the long-term average of 4.9 million ponds. 

The annual survey guides the Service's waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Service works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways - the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific - 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 (the traditional survey area) include:

  • Mallard estimated population of 7.7 million birds, similar to last years estimate of 8.3 million birds and the long-term average.
  • Blue-winged teal estimated population of6 million birds, similar to last years estimate of7 million birds and 45 percent above the long-term average.
  • The estimated population of green-winged teal stands at 3.0 million and is similar to last year and 57 percent above the long-term average.
  • The estimated population of 2.7 million gadwall was 19 percent below last year and 56 percent above the long-term average.
  • The estimated number of 1.1 million redheads was similar to last year and was 66 percent above the long-term average.
  • The canvasback estimate was 489,000 which is 44 percent below last years estimate of 865,000 and 14 percent below the long-term average.
  • The estimated abundance of northern shovelers (3.5 million) was 23 percent below last year and 56 percent above their long-term average.
  • Scaup (lesser and greater combined), estimated at 3.7 million, were similar to last year and 27 percent below the long-term average.   
  • The 2.6 million estimate for northern pintails is 22 percent below last year and 36 percent below the 1955-2007 average.

Population estimates for American black ducks, ring-necked ducks, American wigeon, bufflehead, goldeneyes, and mergansers surveyed in eastern North America were similar to last year as well as their 1990-2007 averages.

This preliminary report does not include estimates from surveys conducted by State or Provincial agencies.  The entire 2008 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report can be downloaded from the Services Web site at .

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.