Delta Waterfowl has released its 2013 annual duck breeding survey. Although a slight breeding population decline is suggested on a year-to-year basis, the long term recovery trend remains strong.
Last year’s low water levels which were symptomatic of many areas of the Prairie Pot Hole region have been supplanted with abundant breeding grounds. The survey’s index cites ten species and of those only American wigeon and canvasbacks showed an increase from 2012. Both populations continue to track above their long term average.
According to Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl, “We started with good water, and it got better with rains in May. All research shows that re-nesting effort and duckling survival are tied to good water conditions. Last year, wetland conditions eroded over the course of the breeding season, which is very common. This year, conditions improved markedly with spring and early summer rains.”
Joel Brice, vice president of conservation for Delta Waterfowl stated that, “May ponds were up 59 percent in the Eastern Dakotas, 44 percent in Southern Manitoba, 40 percent in Southern Alberta and 6 percent in Southern Saskatchewan. Southern Saskatchewan and the Eastern Dakotas are the holy grail for prairie duck production as they hold a very high number of breeding ducks. This year, duck numbers and wetland conditions are excellent in both places.”
In spite of some early season concern about the late spring and delayed nesting, when the rains came they helped to recharge the critical wetlands which support duck production. The Delta news release also mentioned that re-nesting rates are important because many areas of the breeding grounds have poor hatching rates. In drier years such as 2012, hens that lose a first nest to predators are far less likely to make a new nest and lay more eggs.
Although not mentioned in this year’s Delta report, the issues being debated as a part of the U.S. Farm Bill remain a key component to the long term preservation of critical breeding grounds. This is especially true as the value of U.S. farm land continues to rise, which only exacerbates the declines in CRP enrollment. This increased demand for agricultural lands and higher commodity prices combine to place additional pressure on both native grasses and wetlands by agricultural producers who face critical land use decisions.
In case you missed the earlier link, the full Delta Waterfowl Breeding survey report can be retrieved by clicking here. Delta Waterfowl Foundation is a leading North American conservation organization, tracing its origins to the birth of the wildlife conservation movement in 1911. The Foundation supports research, provides leadership and offers science-based solutions to efficiently conserve waterfowl and secure the future of waterfowl hunting. Delta Waterfowl is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Bismarck, N.D.