Breeding duck and Canada goose populations in Minnesota increased or remained stable this year, according to the DNR.
"Breeding waterfowl numbers for most species were generally good," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist. "Although May was one of the wettest months on record in much of the state, most of it came after we had completed the survey."
Breeding duck populations are estimated by flying survey routes at low elevations in small airplanes across Minnesota's better duck breeding habitat. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service ground crews count waterfowl along a portion of the routes to correct for birds missed in the aerial survey.
Estimated mallard breeding population in Minnesota this spring was 375,313, which is 34 percent higher than last year and 9 percent above the 10-year average. Since 1992 the mallard population has been above 300,000 every year except 2003.
"Although the increase was not statistically significant, the mallard population remains high despite dry conditions," Cordts said. "Pond numbers declined 19 percent this year, but mallards seemed to have fared well."
Blue-winged teal numbered 353,209, an increase of 83 percent from last year and 54 percent above the long-term average. The increase was partially due, Cordts said, to cooler-than-average May temperatures, which resulted in delayed migration of blue-wings through the state. Some migrant teal were counted early in the survey. Last year, most migrant blue-wings had moved through Minnesota by the time the survey was started.
Populations of 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," Cordts said. "But duck populations remain fairly high across the state. Also, the abundant rainfall later in May should improve rearing conditions and benefit late-nesting ducks."
For 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 across Minnesota's 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 over 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."
Data on breeding duck populations in Canada and other U.S. states will not be 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. Arctic-nesting goose populations are expected to be poor because ice melt was late this year.
Mallard population estimates from Minnesota will be combined with estimates from other North American breeding areas to determine the length and bag limits for the upcoming waterfowl hunting season.
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