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North Dakota duck survey: Most species up from dry 2021

The increase in wetlands from the pervious year was the highest ever, but grasslands are declining.

mallards
An annual survey of waterfowl and wetlands in North Dakota shows a big increase in both after a dry year with poor duck production in 2021.
Contributed / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 75th annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of nearly 3.4 million birds, up 16% from last year.

Migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski said the index was the 23rd highest on record and stands 38% above the long-term (1948-2021) average.

Indices for most individual species, with the exception of green-winged teal, gadwall, wigeon and blue-winged teal, increased from 2021.

Mallards were up 58% from 2021 and represented the 25th highest count on record.

The ruddy duck index increased 157%, shovelers and pintails increased 126% and 108%, respectively, and other increases ranged from 4% for scaup to 69% for canvasbacks.

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Decreases from the 2021 index were observed for green-winged teal (-42%), gadwall (-36%), wigeon (-10%) and blue-winged teal (-4%).

“It’s important to note that some of our statewide increases in species counts might not reflect broader-scale population trends, especially for pintails,” Szymanski said. “The abnormally wet conditions in the state are likely holding a higher percentage of breeding pintails than normal. We’re coming off a very dry year that resulted in low reproduction, range-wide, for many species.”

The number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was substantially higher than last year, as figures show the spring water index is up 616%, the largest single-year increase on record for the survey.

The water index is based on basins with water and does not necessarily represent the amount of water contained in wetlands or the type of wetlands represented.

Consistent precipitation and cool weather leading up to the survey left a lot of water on the landscape in ditches and intermittent streams.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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