US Fish and Wildlife Reports Nationwide Duck Numbers Down slightly for the 2018/2019 Waterfowl Season

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service have reported the results of their joint breeding population and habitat survey.  Total duck numbers were down slightly compared to last year’s count and, in fact, each individual species dropped to some degree with the exception of Wigeon.  However, the bright spot is that all species where actually up from their long-term averages, with the exception of Scaup and Pintail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at:  reported:

“2018 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 41.2 million breeding ducks was lower than last year’s estimate of 47.3 million, but 17% higher than the long-term average. The total pond estimate was 5.2 million, which was 14% below last year’s estimate of 6.1 million and similar to the long-term average of 5.2 million. Habitat conditions were similar to or declined relative to 2017. Much of the Canadian Prairies experienced average fall and winter precipitation and below-average spring precipitation. The U.S. prairies experienced average to above-average precipitation, but had more variable conditions compared to prairie Canada. Habitat conditions generally declined northward, particularly near the Montana-North Dakota border with Canada.”

The report revealed that Mallards were down to approximately 9.26 million, which was a 12% decrease from the 2017 estimate of 10.49 million, yet still 17% above the long-term average.  Bluewing Teal numbers are approximately 6.45 million, which is 18% below the 2017 estimate of 7.89 million but 27% above the long-term average. Green-winged teal are down to 3.04 million, which is just 16% below the 2017 estimate of 3.61 million but still 42% above the long-term average. The estimate for American Wigeon is 2.82 million which is a 2% increase over the 2017 estimate of 2.78 million and 8% above the long-term average. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 2.89 million which is way down 31% from the 2017 estimate of 4.18 million yet still is 43% above the long-term average. Scaup (both greater and lesser) showed 3.99 million, which is a 9% decrease from the 2017 estimate of 4.37 million and 20% below the long-term average. Northern Shoveler (our beloved SJ spoonys) are estimated at 4.21 million which is 3% below the 2017 estimate of 4.35 million but still a whopping 43% above the long-term average. Redheads are 1.0 million which is 10% below the 2017 estimate of 1.12 million and 32% above the long-term average. Canvasbacks showed 0.69 million which is close but still down 6% from the 2017 estimate of 0.73 million but still 16% above the long-term average. Pintails were estimated at 2.37 million, which was 18% below the 2017 estimate of 2.89 million and 40% below the long-term average.

So, it looks like, unfortunately, this coming season will present hunters with slightly fewer birds but still, despite this, we might have the potential to get a crack at good numbers since most waterfowl, with the exception of Scaup and Pintail, are still above their long-term averages.  Although, in contrast, another thing to remember, for we Southern California duck hunters, is that that the California DFW’s own state population survey shows duck numbers in our state actually up 39% over last year’s state numbers.  (You can check out SoCalHunt’s report on the California DFW’s survey here: ).  So maybe this isn’t bad news for us here in So Cal if you consider that.

More important to hunters here in Southern California than small fluctuations in nationwide duck numbers is the weather, and not really our weather so much.  What Southern California duck hunters really need is some weather up north to spur the bird into moving into our area.

As I type this its 59 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!

You can find the entire report at the link below if you’re inclined to read the entire thing:



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