US Fish and Wildlife Reports Nationwide Duck Numbers Down for the 2022/2023 Waterfowl Season

As you probably already know, if you’ve followed SoCalHunt for the past few years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service canceled their 2020 and 2021 Waterfowl Population Survey, supposedly due to Covid. This year the USFWS reinstated the survey, and the results were just released.

Since 1955, 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 for this year were down 12 percent compared to 2019’s count. Most species dropped to some degree with the exception of Blue Wing Teal and Redheads, with Scaup showing no increase or decrease. As for the long-term averages, out of the species surveyed 5 were down from their long-term averages, and 4 were above their long-term averages with Green Wing Teal right on their long-term average.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Report on Waterfowl Population Status, 2022 can be viewed at: https://www.fws.gov/sites/default/files/documents/waterfowl-population-status-report-2022.pdf

In the summary of this report, it states “In the traditional survey area, which includes strata 1–18, 20–50, and 75–77, the total duck population estimate (excluding scoters [Melanitta spp.], eiders [Somateria spp. and Polysticta spp.], long-tailed ducks [Clangula hyemalis], mergansers [Mergus spp. and Lophodytes cucullatus], and wood ducks [Aix sponsa]) was 34.2 ± 0.6 million birds. This estimate was 12% below the 2019 estimate of 38.9 ± 0.7 million, which was the last year a survey was conducted and 4% below the long-term average (1955–2019). Estimated mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) abundance was 7.2 ± 0.2 million, which was 23% below the 2019 estimate of 9.4 ± 0.3 million and 9% below the long-term average of 7.9 ± 0.04 million. In the traditional survey area the 2022 estimate for blue-winged teal (Spatula discors; 6.5 ± 0.3 million) was 19% above the 2019 estimate and 27% above the long-term average of 5.1 ± 0.04 million. Estimated abundance of gadwall (Mareca strepera; 2.7 ± 0.1 million) was 18% below the 2019 estimate and 30% above the long-term average of 2.0 ± 0.2 million. The 2022 northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata) estimate of 3.0 ± 0.2 million was 17% below the 2019 estimate iii of 3.6 ± 0.2 million and 15% above the long-term average of 2.6 ± 0.02 million. The estimated abundance of green-winged teal (Anas crecca) was 2.2 ± 0.2 million, which was 32% below the 2019 estimate of 3.2 ± 0.2 million and similar to the long-term average, while the canvasback (Aythya valisineria) estimate of 0.6±0.05 million was similar to the 2019 estimate and the long-term average. Estimated abundance of redheads (A. americana; 1.0 ± 0.1 million) was 35% higher than the 2019 estimate and 36% higher than the long-term average of 0.7 ± 0.01 million. Northern pintail (Anas acuta) abundance (1.8 ± 0.2 million) was 21% below the 2019 estimate of 2.3 ± 0.1 million and 54% below the long-term average of 3.9 ± 0.03 million. The abundance estimate for American wigeon (Mareca americana; 2.1±0.1 million) was 25% below the 2019 estimate and 19% below the long-term average of 2.6 ± 0.02 million. The combined estimate of lesser and greater scaup (A. afnis and A. marila; 3.6 ± 0.2 million) was similar to the 2019 estimate and 28% lower than the long-term average of 5.0 ± 0.04 million. A time series for assessing changes in green-winged teal, ring-necked duck (A. collaris), goldeneye (Bucephala clangula and B. islandica), merganser, and American black duck (A. rubripes) population status in the eastern survey area is provided by breeding waterfowl surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) in Maine and eastern Canada. The estimate of goldeneyes was 0.7 ± 0.2 million, which was similar to the 2019 estimate and 1998–2019 average. Ring-necked ducks (0.6 ± 0.1 million) and green-winged teal (0.3 ± 0.07 million) were similar to their 2019 estimates and the long-term averages. The estimate of mergansers was 0.9 ± 0.1 million, which was 13% above the 2019 estimate and 19% above the long-term average. The 2022 estimate of American black ducks in the eastern survey area was 0.8 ± 0.09 million, which was similar to the 2019 estimate of 0.7 ± 0.07 million and the 1998–2019 average. The black duck estimate at the plot survey scale, which is used for management, was 0.57 ± 0.04 million. Eastern mallard population status is derived by integrating data from the eastern survey area and ground plot surveys conducted in the northeastern U.S. states of Virginia north to New Hampshire. The estimated abundance of mallards in 2022 was 1.2 ± 0.16 million, which was 15% above the 2019 estimate and similar to the long-term average.”

Below I’ll include a graphic on this survey that was put out by Ducks Unlimited as it’s probably a little easier to understand than lines and lines of numbers.

As of this report, it’s 63 days until the season opens here in Southern California. It’s a great time to start getting all your duck hunting gear ship-shape and maybe go shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet to tune up. Despite the lower duck numbers in the USFW survey the bigger factor for us down in this part of the state is to get the birds moving our way will be the weather. Hopefully, we’ll get the weather and the birds will migrate early, and we’ll have another great season at San Jacinto!


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