Breeding-duck numbers show decline of 8 percent Certain species hit hard after three strong years

July 19, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual breeding-duck jTC survey showed a decrease of 8 percent this year after three years of record-high numbers.

According to USFWS, the population of breeding ducks is 39.1 million.

Breeding populations of mallards (9.6 million) and blue-winged teal (6.4 million) were close to last year's figures, but northern pintails (down 29 percent) northern shovelers (down 23 percent) green-winged teal (down 17 percent) and scaup (down 16 percent) were off significantly.

"For the last three years, we have enjoyed favorable weather and habitat conditions in the continent's northern duck factory that, combined with the millions of acres of wetlands restored in the past decade, have boosted duck populations," USFWS director Jamie Rappaport Clark said.

"This year's breeding-duck survey reminds us that dry cycles can return."

The estimated number of May ponds in the traditional survey area was down 38 percent from last year, but matched the average from 1974 to 1997.

The breeding-duck survey samples 1.3 million square miles across the north central United States, western and central Canada and Alaska.

Other species that were down were gadwalls (down 4 percent) and American widgeon (down 8 percent). Canvasbacks numbers were unchanged and redhead populations were up 9 percent.

Results in the eastern survey area, recently developed to cover eastern Canada and the northeast United States, showed more positive trends, including increases in buffleheads, mallards, black ducks and gadwalls.

New chapter of QU forming

Through the years, chapters of Quail Unlimited in the state have contributed to the restoration of upland habitat for quail and other species that are dependent on grasslands.

Now, with the formation of the new Piedmont Chapter, central Maryland, too, will benefit from improved habitat.

Quail Unlimited is a recognized leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation across the country.

Four existing chapters of the organization have provided the Department of Natural Resources with specialized seed and planting equipment for establishing or enhancing native warm-season grasses.

DNR Secretary John R. Griffin said the formation of the Piedmont chapter presents the Central Maryland area with a great opportunity.

"Combined with the new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program available through the USDA and the Maryland Department of Agriculture," Griffin said, "the Quail Unlimited, Piedmont chapter, has the potential to aid in the restoration of thousands of acres of upland habitat."

DNR and QU will hold an information and organization meeting for the new chapter from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 25 at Cockeysville Middle School (10401 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville).

The meeting is open to the public. For information, call 410-836-4557.

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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