With all the uncertainty surrounding how the Gulf disaster will impact migrating waterfowl this fall, duck hunters got at least a little bit of good news last week when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released its preliminary 2010 report on mid-continent waterfowl breeding populations.

From this story on Ducks Unlimited:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its preliminary report today on mid-continent breeding ducks and habitats, based on surveys conducted in May. The total duck population is nearly 41 million, which is similar to last year’s estimate and 21 percent above the long-term average. “These are encouraging numbers as we see most species are at or above their long-term averages,” said Dale Humburg, Ducks Unlimited chief biologist. “The habitat conditions in many regions should support a good breeding effort.”


Habitat conditions across the U.S. and Canadian prairies and parklands were generally good. However, further north, wetland conditions in boreal regions of Alaska and northern Canada were only fair at the time of the survey. During the survey and into early summer, many regions important to breeding ducks received significant precipitation, which could increase later breeding efforts and ensure brood survival. If these wet conditions continue, prospects going into the winter and possibly into spring 2011 could be favorable as well. Mallards, gadwalls, green-winged teal, northern shovelers and redheads mirrored last year’s numbers, and all remained above their long-term averages. Canvasback and American wigeon numbers were similar to last year’s, as were pintail and scaup numbers, although populations of these two species remain below their long-term averages.

So there should be plenty of ducks heading south this year. But the looming question remains – at least for the Central and Mississippi flyways – what will they find when they get there?