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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Releases 2013 Duck Numbers

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Releases 2013 Duck Numbers

So you've been thinking about starting your own Duck Dynasty? It's a wonderful time to be a waterfowler.

Turns out, water equals waterfowl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2013 duck numbers last week, which indicate a wet winter and a wet spring across the northern breeding grounds have led to an escalation in duck numbers again this year — for the third year in a row. While overall numbers are just slightly down from last year — about 3 million total, from 48.6 to 45.6 — they are still far above historical norms, 33 percent above the long term averages since 1955, according to Fish and Wildlife Service.

Old frosty-top is the star this year, with the American wigeon up 23 percent from last year with an estimated 2.6 million birds. Mallards are holding strong at 10.4 million (10.6 million greenheads last year), and only bluebill are singing the blues, with scaup down 20 percent overall. Canvasback are up slightly, and still above averages since the '50s, but remain far below long-term historical norms and management objectives.

But all is not just ducky. The good news is slightly misleading in one regard: Waterfowl habitat is being destroyed at an ever-increasing rate due to the spike in corn prices, particularly in the prairie pothole region.


"We must maintain our focus on protecting and restoring important habitat across the birds' range in order to see these kinds of numbers in future wet years," said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall.


As corn has escalated in price, wetlands, swamps, even hardwood groves and boreal areas critical to duck production are being drained, burned, bulldozed and planted in. New hybrid corn is being developed that can grow in places it traditionally could not. — Skip Knowles

Check out a breakdown of the 2013 populations by species; numbers courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

American Wigeon

The American wigeon was one of two species that saw a population increase from 2012 to 2013, jumping up 23 percent. Populations were slightly better than the long-term average at just 2 percent.

2012 Population: 2.145 million
2013 Population: 2.644 million
Percent change from 2012: +23 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +2 percent

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-winged teal saw the second-highest drop in population in 2013, falling 16 percent from 2012. But blues aren't singing the blues just yet, with populations up 60 percent over the long-term average.

2012 Population: 9.242 million
2013 Population: 3.053 million
Percent change from 2012: -16 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +60 percent

— Photo by Bill Marchel

Canvasback

Canvasback populations saw positives across both categories: The population increased by 4 percent from 2012, and beat the long-term average by 37 percent.

2012 Population: .760 million
2013 Population: .787 million
Percent change from 2012: +4 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +37 percent

— Photo by Gary Kramer

Gadwall

Gadwall populations followed a similar trend as mallards, down 7 percent from 2012. However, those numbers are still far above the long-term average; in fact, with a 86-percent difference, gadwall took the second-highest percent change of the 10 species surveyed.

2012 Population: 3.586 million
2013 Population: 3.351 million
Percent change from 2012: -7 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +80 percent

— Photo by Bill Marchel

Green-Winged Teal

Green-winged teal populations fell about 12 percent from 2012, but the numbers are still beating the long-term average by 51 percent.

2012 Population: 3.471 million
2013 Population: 3.053 million
Percent change from 2012: -12 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +51 percent

— Photo by Tom Martineau

Mallard

Mallard populations are down slightly from 2012 — though it's only a slight decrease, down 2 percent from last year. However, greenheads are still well above the long-term average, up 36 percent.

2012 Population: 10.602 million
2013 Population: 10.372 million
Percent change from 2012: -2 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +36 percent

— Photo by Charlie Long

Northern Pintail

Northern pintail numbers took a slight dip from 2012, down 4 percent, but the species also tied for the biggest drop from the long-term average, down 17 percent.

2012 Population: 3.473 million
2013 Population: 3.335 million
Percent change from 2012: -4 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: -17 percent

— Photo by David Stimac

Northern Shoveler

Northern shoveler populations saw a slight 5-percent decrease from 2012, but outdid the rest when it came to the long-term average, up 96 percent.

2012 Population:5.018 million
2013 Population: 4.751 million
Percent change from 2012: -5 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +96 percent

— Photo by David Stimac

Redhead

Redhead populations took a slight dip from 2012, dropping just 5 percent, but had the third-highest increase from the long-term average, up 76 percent.

2012 Population: 1.270 million
2013 Population: 1.202 million
Percent change from 2012: -5 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: +76 percent

— Photo by Jim Thompson Jr.

Scaup (Greater and Lesser)

Bad news for scaups — both greater and lesser. These birds saw the biggest population drop from 2012 — down 20 percent in 2013 — and along with pintails, tied for the biggest drop from the long-term average, down 17 percent.

2012 Population: 5.239 million
2013 Population: 4.166 million
Percent change from 2012: -20 percent
Percent change from Long-Term Average: -17 percent

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