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Minnesota spring waterfowl counts remain high

Population counts showed generally favorable results for most species of ducks that nest in Minnesota, according to the results of the DNR’s waterfowl survey that has provided an index of breeding duck abundance each year since 1968.

Conditions were ideal for waterfowl this year during the survey, which took place in May during a cold, wet and fairly late spring statewide. The DNR uses the waterfowl survey to estimate the number of breeding ducks or breeding geese that nest in the state rather than simply migrate through.

Survey results

The state’s breeding mallard population estimate was 27 percent above its long-term average, with a population estimated at 286,000, just 3 percent lower than last year’s estimate of 295,000 mallards.

The blue-winged teal population is 7 percent above the long-term average with a population of 223,000 this year, which is 17 percent above last year’s estimate.

The combined populations of other ducks such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is 185,000 ducks, which is 10 percent lower than last year and 5 percent above the long-term average.

The estimate of total breeding duck abundance (excluding scaup) is 695,000, nearly identical to last year’s estimate of 693,000 ducks and 14 percent above the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands was 19 percent higher than last year and 23 percent above the long-term average. Wetland numbers can vary greatly based on annual precipitation.

DNR survey methods

The DNR’s annual waterfowl survey covers 40 percent of Minnesota and includes much of the state’s best remaining duck breeding habitat.

A DNR waterfowl biologist and pilot count all waterfowl and wetlands along established survey routes by flying low-level aerial surveys from a fixed-wing plane. The survey is timed to begin in early May to coincide with peak nesting activity of mallards. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews who also count waterfowl along some of the same survey routes. These data are then used to correct for birds not seen by the aerial crew.

In addition to the counts by the DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release the continental waterfowl population estimates later this summer.

The 2019 Minnesota waterfowl report is available on the DNR’s waterfowl hunting page.

Canada geese

This year’s Canada goose population was estimated at 110,000 geese, down 32 percent from last year’s estimate.

The DNR has seen very good reports of goose production (number of goslings produced) from the annual goose banding efforts in June across the state, so there should be plenty of geese around when fall hunting seasons begin.