The US Fish and Wildlife Service just released the results of its annual spring breeding duck population survey, and it’s a good news/bad news kind of deal. The good news? Overall duck populations are at an all-time high. The bad news? Those ducks numbers aren’t quite all they’re, uh, quacked up to be, because the habitat all those ducks need continues to disappear at an alarming rate.

From this press release from Duck Unlimited:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its preliminary report today on breeding ducks and habitats, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 48.6 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area.

This estimate represents a 7 percent increase over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds, and is 43 percent above the 1955-2010 long-term average. This year’s estimate is a record high and is only the sixth time in the survey’s history that the total duck population exceeded 40 million.

“Early indications were that the mild and dry conditions experienced across North America this past fall and winter would negatively impact spring pond conditions and allow increases in grassland conversion rates, ultimately impacting nesting efforts this season,” said Ducks Unlimited Chief Scientist Dale Humburg. “Strong returning duck populations and late spring precipitation have brightened prospects for 2012 duck production. If nesting and brood-rearing conditions are favorable over the next few months, we could see another strong fall flight.”

How did individual species’ breeding numbers break down? The numbers for mallards, gadwall, wigeon, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and northern shovelers all showed increases over last year, as did canvasbacks and scaup. But depressingly, pintails showed a continued decline, down a whopping 22 percent from last year. Compared to the long-term average, 2012 mallard numbers are up 40 percent, gadwall up 94 percent, shovelers up 111 percent, blue-winged teal up 94 percent, green-winged teal up 74 percent, redheads up 89 percent, canvasback up 33 percent and scaup up four percent, while wigeon are down 17 percent and pintails down 14 percent over their long-term averages.

As good as those numbers are (for some species), and as good as numbers have been the past couple years, habitat remains the long-term concern, and the outlook on that front remains uncertain at best.

From the story: _”As good as the population news is this week, waterfowl and wetland habitats continue to face significant long-term threats. The Farm Bill and North American Wetlands Conservation Act are up for renewal by Congress this year and both are crucial to our ability to conserve this critical habitat. We are also fighting to increase our investment in wetlands conservation by raising the price of the federal duck stamp,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “Conservation is indeed at a crossroads this year.”
Thoughts? Did your bag last year reflect the strong number of certain species? Have you been shooting more of the ducks that are increasing and fewer of the ducks showing declines? Anyone else really getting concerned about pintails?