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Environment & Science

Like rabbits: North American duck populations hit all-time high

Some ducks hanging out near the inlet of a detention pond.
Some ducks hanging out near the inlet of a detention pond.
Dustin and Jenae DeKoekkoek/Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been a good season for ducks – literally. According to a new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, duck populations in the United States and Canada has reached the highest levels ever recorded, with a total estimate of 48.6 million breeding ducks in North America. That equals a seven percent increase over the 2011 estimate of 45.6 million ducks, and a full 43 percent over the long-term average of the last fifty years. It’s an annual survey conducted jointly with the Canadian Wildlife Service that covers more than two million miles of waterfowl habitat across the two countries.

"This is the highest duck count since we started the survey in 1955," said Dr. Frank Rohwer, scientific director of Delta Waterfowl. "We had excellent wetland conditions in 2011, the second-highest pond count ever. So last year, we made a pile of ducks. This year, we're counting them." Mallards, Pintails, Shovelers and Canvasbacks are just some of the ducks species counted in the survey.

"I'm excited. It's encouraging," added Walt Rhodes, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who traveled across the continent surveying the birds. "It let's you know that maybe we're doing something right. Overall it seems like things are headed in the right direction. A wetland without waterfowl is just not right."

In terms of those wetlands, the survey also turns up a bit of bad news. Ponds, the primary breeding habitat for ducks, were 32 perfect fewer in number compared to 2011.

"The winter was generally dry and pond conditions across the Prairies deteriorated from the very wet conditions experienced last year,” said Dr. Mike Anderson, senior conservation advisor for Ducks Unlimited Canada.