USFWS Releases 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Survey

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Surveys today.

Here’s some of the USFWS report with regards to Alaska waterfowl numbers:

In general, habitat conditions during the 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) were similar to or declined relative to 2018, with a few exceptions. Much of the Canadian prairies experienced below-average precipitation from fall 2018 through spring 2019. Fall and winter temperatures were mainly below average. Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan had a warm spell in December 2018 through January 2019 but February 2019 was brutally cold across all of the Canadian prairies. Spring temperatures were average to slightly below average.

The U.S. prairies experienced average to above-average precipitation over most of the region. Habitat conditions were generally drier near the North Dakota border with Canada. Conditions in much of the eastern survey area remained similar or improved relative to 2018. The region experienced mainly average to above-average precipitation in the south and Maritimes but below-average precipitation across the northern areas since September 2018.

The entire region tended to have a cool spring. Spring phenology and ice-out was generally normal but substantially delayed in northern Quebec and Labrador. Conditions for waterfowl production were good to excellent in the south and poorer farther north. Spring phenology was earlier than average across much of Alaska and the eastern Arctic and Subarctic, whereas spring snow and ice cover in the central and western Arctic and Subarctic were generally comparable to last year.

The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and northcentral U.S. combined) was 5.0 ± 0.2 million, which was similar to the 2018 estimate of 5.2 ± 0.2 million and the long-term average of 5.2 ± 0.03 million.

The 2019 estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 2.9 ± 0.1 million. This estimate was 22% below the 2018 estimate of 3.7±0.1 million and 19% below the long-term average (3.5±0.02 million). The 2019 pond estimate for the northcentral U.S. was 2.1 ± 0.1 million, which was 36% above the 2018 estimate (1.6 ± 0.09 million) and 26% above the long-term average (1.7 ± 0.01 million). Spring phenology and timing of ice-out was normal or slightly delayed in places within the traditional survey area.

Alaska experienced above-average temperatures and below- to above-average precipitation in a northward gradient. The boreal forest experienced generally below-average precipitation and temperatures but December 2018 was warmer than average. Habitat quality generally declined across the survey area compared to last year, with the exception of most of the Dakotas and Montana which continued to improve. Overall habitat quality remained fair to good over a large portion of the traditional survey area and should lead to average waterfowl production this year, however dry areas, particularly in the Canadian prairies, have expanded since 2018.

Ducks Unlimited provided the actual numbers projected per species of birds:

Total populations were estimated at 38.9 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, 6 percent lower than last year’s estimate of 41.2 million and 10 percent above the long-term average (since 1955).