Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Sports Archives

Paynesville Press - July 14, 2004

DNR reports good waterfowl counts

Breeding duck and Canada goose populations in Minnesota increased or remained stable this year, according to results released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"Breeding waterfowl numbers for most species were generally good," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist. "Although May was one of the wettest on record for most counties in the state, most of the rain occurred after we had completed the survey."

Each May a DNR waterfowl biologist and conservation officer pilot estimate breeding duck populations by flying randomly selected survey routes at low elevations using fixed-wing aircraft. The survey is designed to estimate breeding duck populations across about 40 percent of Minnesota, which comprises most of the better duck breeding habitat. All waterfowl and wetlands are counted along these routes.

In addition, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ground crews count waterfowl along a portion of the routes to correct for birds missed during the aerial survey.

The estimated mallard breeding population in Minnesota this spring was 375,313, which was 34 percent higher than last year and nine percent above the 10-year average. "Although the increase this year was not statistically significant, the mallard population remains high despite the dry conditions," Cordts said. "Pond numbers declined 19 percent this year, but mallards seemed to have fared well."

Since 1992, the population has been above 300,000 every year except in 2003.

Blue-winged teal numbers were 353,209, an increase of 83 percent from last year and 54 percent above the long-term average. "The increase this spring was partially due to the cooler-than-average May temperatures, which resulted in delayed migration of blue-wings through the state, so some migrant teal were counted early in the survey," Cordts said. "Last year, most migrant blue-wings had moved through Minnesota by the time the survey was initiated."

Populations of other duck species such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and gadwalls increased 13 percent this year to about 280,000, which is 10 percent above the 10-year average.

"Overall, we expected slightly lower populations this year because of the dry conditions during the survey, but duck populations remain fairly high across the state," Cordts said. "Also, the abundant rainfall received across most of the state later in May should improve brood-rearing conditions and benefit late-nesting ducks."

Canada Geese
This is the fourth year the DNR conducted a statewide helicopter survey of breeding giant Canada geese in April and early May. A DNR biologist and helicopter pilot counted Canada geese on 150 quarter-section (160 acre) plots randomly across Minnesota's three major ecoregions: prairie, transition, and forest zones.

This year's estimate of 375,000 geese was higher than 2003 and remains above statewide population objectives.

"Conditions were very dry throughout most of the state when we flew the survey," said Steve Maxson, DNR goose specialist. "That seemed to concentrate geese on the remaining wetland habitats, which may have influenced the count."

Breeding Waterfowl
The number of breeding waterfowl in Minnesota is estimated each year as part of an annual inventory of North American breeding waterfowl.

"Data on breeding duck populations from Canada and other states is not available until July, but preliminary reports indicate fair conditions and duck numbers in the Dakotas and prairie Canada," Cordts said. "Most regions benefited by rain in late May, but it may have come a little late. Also, we expect production from most artic-nesting goose populations to be very poor because ice melt was extremely late this year."

Mallard population estimates from Minnesota will be combined with estimates from other North American breeding areas and used to determine the duck season length and bag limit for the 2004-05 waterfowl hunting season.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community