Recent duck population increases masking detrimental wetlands losses

Report says pintail, other species, in long-term decline

While many duck species populations are at or near historic levels now, officials are concerned that continued loss of wetlands in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region, combined with the inevitable return of dryer weather there, will have serious implications for the future.

“Many wetland bird species are doing very well,” said Dr. Scott Yaich, chief scientist for Ducks Unlimited. “We can at least partially attribute this to collective wetland conservation efforts across the continent. But, two decades of unprecedented above-average rainfall in many key breeding areas are in large part responsible for duck population increases that are masking the loss of wetland habitats documented by other studies.

“We continue to be very concerned about the accelerating loss of wetlands in important areas for birds and what that will mean when we inevitably enter another dry period.”

The State of the Birds 2014 report indicates temporary wetlands in the pothole region declined by more than 74,000 acres from 1997 to 2009.

While species like mallards, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gray ducks and spoonbills are near historic levels, northern pintail populations, which rely heavily on temporary wetlands, have been declining for several decades and are currently 20 percent below their long-term average, the report states.

For more information on The State of the Birds 2014 report, click here.