ND Duck Brood Numbers up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s mid-July waterfowl production survey had good news for duck hunters, as it showed the state’s brood index was up 37 percent from last year. As a result, NDGF wildlife officials are predicting a fall flight that’s up 12 percent from last year. Photo by Ken Hoehn, Thinkstock

Biologists from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department expect a fall duck flight that is up 12 percent from last year, according to a news release. The uptick in duck numbers is based on observations from the department’s annual mid-July waterfowl production survey.

This year’s duck brood index was up 37 percent from last year and showed 5.11 broods per square mile, a 39 percent increase. Average brood size is unchanged at 6.76 ducklings per brood.

Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said in the release that conditions were pretty dry after the May breeding duck survey, which indicated duck numbers and wetlands were down. However, Szymanski said most of North Dakota received abundant rainfall from late May through early July, which led to the rebound in numbers.

The July survey showed duck production in the northern tier of the state was very good, and Szymanski mentioned even areas farther south were still quite favorable.

“We have been seeing good numbers of broods since the summer survey, and especially lots of young birds, which indicates renesting efforts were very strong,” Szymanski said.

Mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal are the top three duck species that nest in North Dakota. Together, they accounted for about 75 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota.

Mallard brood numbers were up about 22 percent from last year, gadwalls were up about 47 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were up 45 percent. In addition, pintail brood numbers were up 142 percent.

Observers also count water areas during the survey, and this year’s water index was up 11 percent from last year. Szymanski said wetlands in the north-central part of the state were still below average, but other areas were close to or slightly above average.

“Wetland conditions are still on the dry side, as the early summer rains slowed down quite a bit,” Szymanski said. “The larger basins are in pretty good shape, and even some local, smaller basins that were dry this spring were filled from the earlier rainfall. But the small, shallow basins are beginning to show the effects and have the potential to dry up before hunting seasons begins.”

The department’s summer duck brood survey involves 18 routes that cover all sectors of the state, except west and south of the Missouri River. Biologists count and classify duck broods and water areas within 220 yards on each side of the road.

The survey started in the mid-1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965. NDGF biologists will conduct a separate survey in September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting seasons.