The US Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday released its report on 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 49.2 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This estimate represents an 8-percent increase from last year's estimate of 45.6 million birds, and is 43 percent higher than the 1955-2013 long-term average. This continues a three-year trend of exceptional water conditions and population numbers for many species.
“It looks like another good waterfowl breeding year for a good portion of the prairies and the boreal forest,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “Precipitation in the form of snow and rain has provided sufficient water to fill important wetlands in key breeding habitats. We hope this will result in good production and another great flight of birds migrating in the fall. DU and its partners continue to work hard to protect and restore habitat to provide for the needs of these birds and so much more. While we still have much work to do in delivering habitat and securing key conservation policies for sustaining these populations, we are heartened by the good results we have seen in the past few years.”
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While this is great news from up North, it brings added pressure to the drought-stricken areas of the Pacific Flyway when this greater-than-normal amount of waterfowl head south in the fall. With Refuges and rice fields potentially looking at significant water shortages, the biggest question becomes: where will all these birds go?