Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Duck hunters can expect to see good numbers of waterfowl during the 2018 hunting seasons. And although total duck numbers have decreased by 13 percent from 2017; populations remain strong and are17 percent above the long term – 1955 to 2017 — average [LTA]. That’s the official assessment from this year’s North American Breeding Duck and Habitat Survey released this week by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Conducted every year since 1955, the continent-wide annual survey measures trends in duck breeding populations and monitors wetland [pond] indexes across the northern U.S. as well as for large portions of prairie and boreal Canada. Spring pond counts on Canada’s southern prairies were down 13 percent from 2017. Waterfowl biologists blame drier conditions on critical northern breeding grounds for this year’s decrease in successful duck nests.
- Species Highlights: A surveyed breeding population of around 9.26 million mallard ducks was reported by the Fish & Wildlife Service during 2018 – a 12 percent decrease from last year’s count, but 17 percent above the LTA. Blue-winged teal populations declined by 18 percent from 2017 but remain 27 percent above the LTA. The combined breeding populations of lesser and greater scaup [bluebills] declined 9 percent and are 20 percent below the average. The number of breeding pintails declined by 18 percent and remains an alarming 40 percent below the LTA.
So what does this year’s mixed flight forecast mean to Iowa hunters? Well, we’ll all have to just wait and see. For those of us sitting smack in the middle of the flyway, there are always plenty of uncertainties. As is the case every year, the ultimate success of the fall duck season will mostly depend on local wetland conditions, developing fall weather patterns and, of course, upon the migratory whims of the birds themselves.