The study, 2019 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, is based on surveys conducted in May and early June by the USFWS, Canadian Wildlife Service and other partners.
Mallard counts rose to 9.423 million in 2019, up from 9.255 million in 2018. That’s an increase of 2% year over year and 19% over the long-term average — dating back to 1955.
Gadwall numbers were way up in 2019, rising 13% from 2018 to 3.258 million — a 61% increase over the 64-year long-term average.
The green-winged teal population rose 4% in 2019 to 3.178 million, up 47% over long-term, though blue-winged teal took a hit, dropping 16% to 5.427 million. Blue-winged teal, which are more common than the green-winged variety, are still up 6% over the long term.
The biggest population drop came from redhead counts, which fell 27 percent to 732,000 from the 2018 count of 999,000. Northern pintail populations, which are now down 42% over the long term, fell by 4% in 2019 to 2.268 million. Northern shoveler fell by 13% in 2019 to 3.649 million, but is still up 39 percent over the long term.
Canvasbacks are down 5% to just 651,000 birds, but that number is still up 10% over the long-term average. Of the ducks counted in the survey, canvasbacks had the lowest population, while mallards had the highest, followed by blue-winged teal and Northern shoveler.
Scaup (3.59 million) were down 10% year over year and 28% over the long term, while American wigeon (2.832 million) rose by 12,000 birds, not enough to register a percentage point. Wigeon are up 8% long term.
Total duck numbers were down 6% from 2018 to 38.9 million, but up 10% since 1955.
“Overall, both total ponds and total populations of breeding waterfowl in the Prairie Pothole Region were down slightly,” Ducks Unlimited chief scientist Tom Moorman said in a news release. “However, important breeding areas in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan were much drier than last year, which contributes to reduced numbers of breeding waterfowl observed in the survey. Fortunately, eastern North Dakota and South Dakota saw an increase in both ponds and breeding waterfowl, especially mallards, blue-winged teal, gadwalls, Northern shovelers and Northern pintails. Typically, when the Dakotas are wet and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan are dry, we see the aforementioned species settle in the Dakotas, reminding us that we must conserve habitat across the prairies because it is rare for the entire Prairie Pothole Region to be wet.
“Ultimately, however, hunting success and numbers of birds observed will vary with the onset of fall and winter cold fronts and arrival of winter conditions necessary to force birds to migrate, and also with regional habitat conditions.”
The Kansas waterfowl hunting period begins with teal season, which runs Sept. 14-29 in the Low Plains Zone east of US-283 highway and Sept. 21-29 in the High Plains Zone to the west.
Duck season runs Oct. 26 to Dec. 29 in the Low Plains Late Zone, in which Topeka resides. The daily bag limit is six birds, which may include no more than two canvasbacks, two redheads, one pintail, three wood ducks, three scaup and five mallards — only two of which may be hens. The daily bag may comprise of six of any other duck, such as six teal, six gadwalls or six wigeon. Possession limit is three times the daily limit. Waterfowl hunters are required to purchase and carry a Kansas HIP Stamp, State Waterfowl Stamp and Federal Waterfowl Stamp, in addition to a valid Kansas hunting license if they are over the age of 16.
Other Kansas duck seasons include:
— Low Plains Early Zone: First segment, Oct. 12 to Dec. 8; second segment, Dec. 14-29
— Low Plains Southeast Zone: First segment, Nov. 9 to Jan. 5, 2020; second segment, Jan. 11-26, 2020— High Plains Unit: Oct. 12 to Jan. 5, 2020; Jan. 17-26, 2020.
In addition to ducks, goose numbers were tabulated for 2019 and show some slight decline in the Midwest.
Canada goose numbers in the Central Flyway Arctic nesting grounds actually saw a 1% boost, rising to 2.499 million in 2019. The birds nesting in this flyway will migrate along a path that includes Kansas. In the Mississippi Flyway Giant nesting grounds, Canada geese were down 4% to 1.501 million, however. Birds from this area have a migration path through Missouri that may leak over into Kansas.
Ross’ geese populations dropped 25% to 337,000, while greater snow geese fell 19% to 714,000. Lesser snow geese in the Mid-continent Flyway fell 9% to 12 million. Pacific Flyway light geese and Wrangel Island lesser snow geese rose by 4% and 45%, respectively.
Declines in light goose numbers actually are preferable, as the birds are drastically overpopulated.
White-fronted geese, also known as speckle bellies, in the Mid-continent Flyway also rose marginally from 772,000 birds counted to 774,000 in 2019.In Kansas, the Canada goose and light goose seasons begin with a two-day first segment Oct. 26-27, followed by a longer second segment Nov. 6 to Feb. 16, 2020. The daily bag limit for Canada geese is six birds, including brant. The possession limit is 18.
For light geese, which include snow and blue geese, the daily bag limit is 50 with no possession limit during the regular season. A conservation order extended season for light geese also takes place Feb. 17 to April 30, 2020.
During this period, there will be no bag or possession limit on light geese. In addition, participants will be allowed to use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls and take light geese from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset during the period of the conservation order.
The statewide white-fronted goose season begins with a first segment from Oct. 26 to Dec. 29, with a second segment Jan. 25 to Feb. 16, 2020. The daily bag limit is two, with a possession limit of six.
The sandhill crane season also runs Nov. 6 to Jan. 2, 2020, with a daily bag limit of three birds and a possession limit of six.