Its waterfowl breeding population survey now submitted, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has some good news: the breeding population of ducks in California for 2016 is up 24.5 percent from 2015. The total breeding population of ducks in California is estimated to be 417,791.
“The late, abundant spring rains were a real boost to the habitat this year,” Melanie Weaver, a CDFW waterfowl biologist who participated in the survey said. “We expect good production and a larger fall flight this year because of it.”
The total breeding duck population is still 33.6 percent below the long-term average, however.
While drought conditions eased in much of the state during the 2015-16 winter, there are still many areas in the Central Valley that still received below average precipitation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in the abstract to the survey.
According to the survey, breeding waterfowl should benefit from good habitat conditions as Central Valley rice farmers and wetland habitat managers are predicted to receive normal surface water allotments for irrigation and summer water.
The news follows three years of declining numbers in both total duck species and mallard populations.
The breeding population of mallards in the state saw a large increase over the numbers from 2015, jumping 51.7 percent. The population of breeding mallards for 2016 is estimated to number 263,774, up from 173,865 last year.
Despite the gains, the breeding mallard population is still 31.6 percent below its long-term, historical average. The species constitutes the largest portion of the total breeding duck population, followed by gadwall and cinnamon teal, in that order. Those three species constituted 84 percent of all ducks observed.
The breeding gadwall population stands at an estimated 58,379, which is about the same as last year. The gadwall population remains 46.4 percent below the long-term average. The breeding cinnamon teal population — while still at only 40.5 percent of its average — is up 6 percent from 2015, and estimated to be at 30,221.
Northern shovelers and northern pintails were also noted in the survey, with estimated breeding populations of 10,822 and 10,372, respectively. All species, except for the northern pintail, remain below their long-term averages. The pintail population is up 38.1 percent over the long-term average.
The CDFW’s breeding population survey is conducted annually in the spring. This year’s study was conducted from April 26 to May 2, 2016. ■