Positive North Dakota waterfowl survey results for 2020

For the first time in its 65-year history, the 2020 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey was cancelled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and state partners due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department did manage to complete their Spring Breeding Duck Survey for 2020, finding that the numbers were very positive. Blue-winged teal are up 60 percent on the year with several other species showing increases or staying stable.

North Dakota uses a 73-year data set that’s different, but complementary to the CWS/USFWS efforts, helping paint a small picture of what the national survey might have looked like.

Cancellation of these surveys will create a one-year gap in the record of waterfowl population estimates. The USFWS, in consultation with the Flyway Councils, will use long-term data from spring/summer monitoring for these species to make regulatory harvest management decisions.

Other Notes from North Dakota:

  • Wetland conditions remain “fair to good” (drier) in the western part of the survey area and “very good” in the eastern portion (6th wettest on record and highest since 2014) .
  • NDGFD also documented an increase in several breeding duck species like gadwall, northern shovelers, etc. over last year with a significant increase (+60-65%) in blue-wing teal.  Mallards and northern pintail remained relatively stable.   
  • The state also saw an increase in several diving duck species (scaup, canvasbacks). 

*Thanks to DU’s Eric Lindstrom for contributing