The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paired up with the Canadian Wildlife Service, among others, to survey the total wild duck population.
Their findings revealed that the population dropped by nearly 2.4 million in just one year– a 7% drop.
Why Did North America Lose So Many Wild Ducks?
Ducks Unlimited’s chief scientist, Steve Adair, says:
“These results are somewhat disappointing, as we had hoped for better production from the prairies following improved moisture conditions in spring of 2022. Last year’s nesting season was delayed with April snowstorms and May rains, which likely impacted overall production. In the past, we have seen population growth lag moisture conditions as small, shallow wetlands recover from the lingering impacts of severe drought.”
Part of this loss is attributed to the 9% decline in the number of ponds in the United States, wherein the US dropped from 5.5 million ponds to 5 million.
As people continue to fill in ponds and drain marshlands, these ducks lose more and more precious wetland habitats and breeding grounds.
Different Duck Species Population Changes
While ducks in general declined by 9% as a whole, this change distributed very differently for each individual species.
- Mallard ducks lost 18% of their population since 2022, down 23% from the long-term average.
- American Wigeons have lost 14% of their population since 2022, and they’re down 28% from their long-term average.
- Blue-winged teals dropped 19% from last year.
- Gadwalls and Redheads did not experience much change from 2022, but their long-term averages are up 25% and 27%, respectively.
- Pintails gained 24% of their population back since last year.
How We Can Help The Ducks
Improving duck populations in North America is essential for preserving biodiversity and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Support Wetland Conservation
Ducks rely on wetlands for breeding, feeding, and shelter.
Supporting organizations that work to conserve and restore wetlands, such as Ducks Unlimited (also known as Duck.org), is a direct way to protect duck habitats.
Your donations can fund research, habitat restoration, and advocacy efforts.
If you own or manage land, please implement responsible land management practices.
This may include creating or maintaining wetlands, providing nesting boxes for cavity-nesting ducks, and avoiding activities that harm duck habitats.
Even with a small garden or yard, consider planting native vegetation that provides food and shelter for ducks and other waterfowl.
Bee gardens are also helpful in the long term. Always avoid using pesticides that can harm waterfowl (or other wildlife).
Always Follow Your Local Hunting Regulations
Duck hunters should adhere to hunting regulations and bag limits.
Responsible hunting helps maintain sustainable duck populations.
Researchers keep a close pulse on the waterfowl populations, which is how they determine bag limits and other restrictions each year.
Following these rules keep the population balanced and healthy.
Reduce Pollution and Your Carbon Footprint
Reducing pollution in waterways and wetlands is essential.
Proper disposal of chemicals, limiting fertilizer runoff, and preventing litter from entering water sources can all contribute to healthier duck habitats.
No-till growing is a great way to maintain land health without contributing to soil erosion.
Soil erosion contributes to poor waterway health, so reducing it is crucial.
Eliminating toxic runoff is another key component that will keep watersheds clean and inviting for the wild ducks.
Educate, Advocate, and Participate
Raise awareness about the importance of duck conservation.
Educate others about the role ducks play in ecosystems and the need to protect their habitats.
Advocate for policies that support wetland conservation.
Join citizen science programs that monitor duck populations.
Reporting observations and participating in surveys can provide valuable data for researchers and conservationists.
This helps scientists keep tabs on the population and intervene much quicker for better efficacy.
Have you found wild ducklings and aren’t sure what to do? We have a guide for this: How to Care for Wild Baby Ducks: The Ultimate Guide.
The Declining Duck Population: In Summary
In conclusion, the declining duck population in North America underscores the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Ducks are not only vital components of our ecosystems but also serve as indicators of wetland health.
By supporting wetland conservation, responsible land management, and sustainable hunting practices, we can contribute to their recovery.
Reducing pollution, advocating for supportive policies, and engaging in citizen science further aid in our shared responsibility to protect these remarkable birds.
With collective action and awareness, we can reverse the trend of declining duck populations and ensure a brighter future for North America’s waterfowl and the beautiful ecosystems (oftentimes, our backyards!) that they inhabit.