It is time to predict the fall duck migration for the Mississippi Flyway. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service conduct the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey every spring. They count breeding pairs and breeding conditions in the Prairie Pothole Region, prime waterfowl habitat in the north-central U.S. and central Canada. The final report will be released in August; but, Delta Waterfowl has seen the preliminary figures and has these predictions.
“The good news is we have a lot of ducks because of strong production for the past several years,” said Delta Waterfowl president and chief scientist Dr. Frank Rohwer. “The bad news is those ducks found dry conditions across much of their key breeding areas this spring. A remarkably high number of returning ducks had to compete for a remarkably low number of wetlands.”
For several years duck numbers have been fantastic, well above the long-term average; coupled with that, there have been wet springs and near-perfect breeding conditions resulting in good survival rates and multiple nestings. The results meant that the fall flights had a fair percentage of young ducks that could be fooled by hunter’s decoys. Rohwer notes that the 2016-17 season will have more decoy-savvy birds, making it relatively harder on hunters.
“The total duck estimate should remain strong,” Rohwer said. “Last year, the overall population estimate was 49.5 million, so I suspect we will still exceed 40 million ducks – which is well above the long-term average – thanks to high carryover from several good breeding seasons.”
“This is indeed a fine era to be a waterfowler,” Rohwer concluded. “We’re nowhere close to dropping from the long string of liberal season frameworks hunters have enjoyed. While I expect the fall flight to consist of challenging, adult ducks, there should be plenty of them.” For the complete report go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.