Delve into a comprehensive analysis of species-specific numbers in the 2023 waterfowl populations report, ensuring you maximize your experience for the upcoming 2023-2024 duck hunting season.
DU Chief Scientist Dr. Steve Adair said the overall numbers reflect a complex relationship between waterfowl, weather, and habitat availability.
“These results are somewhat disappointing, as we had hoped for better production from the eastern prairies following improved moisture conditions in spring of 2022,” Adair said. “Last year’s nesting season was delayed with April snowstorms and May rains, which likely impacted overall production. In the past, we have seen population growth lag moisture conditions as small, shallow wetlands recover from the lingering impacts of severe drought.”
- Populations of most species remain healthy and near the long-term averages, which should produce a respectable flight for waterfowl hunters and waterfowl enthusiasts to enjoy this fall and winter.
- Total pond numbers in the U.S. and Canada were estimated at 5 million, which was 9% lower than the 2022 estimate of 5.5 million and slightly below the long-term average of 5.2 million.
- Mallard and American wigeon populations declined. Estimates for mallards were down 18% from 2022 and 23% from their long-term average. American wigeon were down 14% from 2022 and 28% from their long-term average. These declines are a concern for DU scientists and amplify the need for sustained investments in conservation, monitoring, and targeted science.
- Pintails provided a noteworthy bright spot. Population estimates increased 24% over the record low from last year. Although the survey showed that overall duck populations remain healthy, it also told a story of continuing drought in the western Canadian prairie provinces, which will limit production for ducks that traditionally settle in those landscapes.
- Subsequent surveys will paint a more complete picture of how well duck populations are recovering from the severe drought of 2020–2021.
- Highly pathogenic avian influenza – Based on reports from waterfowl managers and wildlife disease experts of partner agencies, DU scientists don’t expect a significant impact on duck populations from the HPAI outbreak of 2022.
“Lower than expected numbers in this year’s survey reinforce the need for wetlands conservation as habitat continues to be lost across the continent,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “For over 86 years, DU has focused on North American wetlands and grasslands that sustain healthy waterfowl populations, and support clean water for people, too. As much as we have accomplished, these data confirm we have more work to do.”
View the full 2023 Waterfowl Population Status report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
View past U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports.
Waterfowl Season Outlook: Join industry experts for a live analysis of the 2023 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey results and a look ahead to hunting season on August 21. Register here: www.ducks.org/wso
Fly along: This spring, Ducks Unlimited joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they flew the breeding grounds. Watch the adventures and learn about the process on this episode of DU Nation.