Spring breeding duck numbers tallied

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 71st annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 2.8 million birds, down 5 percent from last year.

Migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski said even though the index is below 3 million for the second consecutive year, it still stands 16 percent above the long-term average (1948-2017) and is the 25th highest on record.

“Duck numbers are still hanging on, but are certainly better in some local areas,” Szymanski said.

Survey results indicate only shovelers (up 10 percent) and wigeon (up 7 percent) increased from their 2017 estimates. Mallards were stable (down 1 percent), while green-winged teal showed the largest decrease (down 20 percent). All other ducks were 3-17 percent below last year’s numbers. However, most species, with the exception of pintails, blue-winged teal and ruddy ducks, were well-above the 70-year average.

An interesting observation during the survey, Szymanski noted, was the lack of breeding effort for Canada geese. “We can attribute that to the late spring and overall dry conditions,” he said.

The number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was down from last year, as figures show the spring water index is down 34 percent.

Szymanski said concerns about habitat remain, as overall conditions weren’t very good with expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres, and habitat conversion to other uses.