Calif. DF&G wraps up duck breeding survey |

Calif. DF&G wraps up duck breeding survey

Don Quilici

The Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game (DF&G) has completed its annual breeding pair survey and both mallard and total duck species have decreased slightly this year.

The breeding population of mallards decreased 3 percent from 399,400 in 2006 to 388,300 this year and total ducks (all species combined) decreased from 649,300 to 627,600, which is also a 3 percent decrease.

These estimates are not statistically different from the previous years’ estimates or the long-term averages, although mallards, the most abundant duck in the survey, are 4 percent above the long-term average.

“The proportion of young ducks in the harvest last year was lower than average despite the wet spring nesting conditions in 2006, so we didn’t expect to see an increase in the breeding population estimate this year,” said Melanie Weaver, one of the DF&G biologists who conducts the survey.

DF&G biologists and warden pilots have conducted this survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1955.

The California Waterfowl Association, under contract with DF&G for the past 14 years, assists DF&G by surveying a portion of the transects using a helicopter.

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The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, although surveyed areas include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the State. These areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, the Central Valley from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, the Suisun Marsh, and some coastal valleys.

The DF&G is waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding population estimates from the primary breeding areas of waterfowl in Alaska, north-central United States and Canada.

The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from the federally-surveyed areas.

Preliminary indications are that habitat in many prairie nesting areas is above average.

Once DF&G receives the estimates and the federal frameworks for waterfowl hunting regulations, the DF&G will then make a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission regarding this year’s waterfowl hunting regulations.

For information, call Melanie Weaver, Department of Fish and Game, (916) 445-3717