Breeding duck populations are up

By MDWF

JACKSON – Breeding waterfowl populations have increased or remained similar to last year for the ten duck species surveyed; and overall, duck populations rose 13 percent from last year to 42 million birds. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service conduct annual waterfowl population surveys on the breeding grounds to monitor waterfowl populations and help set hunting season frameworks.

The 2009 May pond count was 6.4 million ponds, an increase of 45 percent over the 2008 count of 4.4 million ponds. “The good news is that May pond counts have greatly increased from last year. The bad news is that a report from North Dakota suggests nesting cover has greatly declined since last year because of expiring CRP contracts” said Ed Penny, Migratory Game Bird Program Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP).

Mallard numbers increased 10% from last year to 8.5 million birds. Pintail populations increased to 3.2 million birds, which is 23% above the 2008 estimate. Canvasback estimates were 35% above last year’s at 0.7 million birds. Northern Shoveler breeding populations were estimated at 4.4 million ducks, which is 25% above the 2008 estimates. Gadwall, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, American wigeon, scaup, and redhead populations were similar to last year’s estimates.

Overall, this year’s population estimates and breeding habitat conditions are promising. However, many factors contribute to a good hunting season for Mississippi’s duck hunters. Fall and winter weather conditions play a large role in the migration of ducks. When ducks get here, they also need good habitat conditions to keep them around.

“If we don’t get cold temperatures in the northern U.S., Mississippi hunters may not see the benefits of increased populations” said Houston Havens, MDWFP Migratory Game Bird Biologist.

“Our Wildlife Management Area staff help make sure that ducks see good habitat when they arrive from the north” said Ed Penny. “These intensively managed islands of habitat give migrating ducks a place to rest and feed before landscape level habitat conditions improve from natural flooding.”