The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that duck numbers were down slightly compared to last year’s duck count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.Flyways.us web site reported:
“2016 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 48.4 million breeding ducks was similar to last year’s estimate of 49.5 million, and 38% above the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 5 million, which was 21% below last year’s estimate of 6.3 million and similar to the long-term average of 5.2 million. Despite an early spring over most of the survey area, habitat conditions were poorer than last year because of below-average precipitation and subsequent drying of wetlands. Most prairie and parkland regions were at best fair for waterfowl production.”
Flyways.us reported that Mallards were up to approximately 11.8 million, which was a 1.7% increase to the 2015 estimate of 11.6 million, and 51% above the long-term average of 7.8 million. Bluewing Teal numbers are approximately 6.7 million, which is 22% below the 2015 estimate of 8.5 million but 34% above the long-term average of 5.0 million. Green-winged teal are up to 4.3 million, which is just 4.5% above the 2015 estimate of 4.1 million but 104% above the long-term average of 2.1 million. The estimate for American wigeon is 3.4 million which is a 13% increase over the 2015 estimate of 3.0 million and 31% above the long-term average of 2.6 million. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 3.7 million which is down 2.6% from the 2015 estimate of 3.8 million and 90% above the long-term average 2.0 million. Scaup (both greater and lesser) showed 5.0 million, which is a 13.6% increase from the 2015 estimate of 4.4 million but similar to the long-term average of 5.0 million. Northern shoveler (the favorite of SJ, our beloved spoonys) are estimated at 4.0 million which is 9% below the 2015 estimate of 4.4 million and 56% above the long-term average of 2.5 million. Redheads are 1.3 million which is 7.7% below the 2015 estimate of 1.2 million and 82% above the long-term average of 0.7 million. Canvasbacks showed 0.7 million which is similar to the 2015 estimate of 0.76 million and 26% above the long-term average of 0.6 million. Pintails were estimated at 2.6 million, which was 13% below the 2015 estimate of 3.0 million and 34% below the long-term average of 4.0 million.
So it looks like, despite this past rainy season’s El Nino (which kind of missed us here in So. Calif.) California, this coming season will present hunters with a few less birds but still has the potential to produce good numbers since most waterfowl are still above their long-term averages. Hopefully we’ll get some rain down here, once the rainy season gets underway, to provide the needed habitat coupled with some severe weather to the north at the right time to trigger the duck’s migration down to our neighborhood in time for our season.
As I type this its 73 days until the season opens down here in SoCal. It might be a good time to start getting your duck hunting gear together and maybe go shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet to tune up. Hopefully the birds will migrate early and we’ll have another great season at San Jacinto!
To check out the above duck numbers for yourself go to www.flyways.us
(Note: For some reason the USFWS didn’t calculate the percentage change in duck number for many of the species between the 2015 and 2016 surveys. If the numbers weren’t too dissimilar they just stated that the numbers were “similar to” last year’s numbers. I went ahead and did the percentage change for most of them. Hopefully my math is correct.)