State Game and Fish Department biologists expect a fall duck flight from North Dakota that is similar to last year, based on observations from the annual mid-July waterfowl production survey.
This year’s brood index came in at 3.89 broods per square mile, which is up 11 percent from last year. The statewide average since the survey began in the 1950s is 2.55 broods per square mile.
Observers also count water areas during the summer survey, and this year’s water index was 35 percent higher than last year. Because of abundant rains in many parts of North Dakota since late May, Game and Fish migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said summer wetland conditions are improved over spring conditions.
“It was fairly dry when we did our spring survey, but after that we started to get some good rains that helped improve late nesting and renesting efforts,” Szymanski said. “Wetlands were drying up quickly this spring, but then the rains came. The heavy, often localized rainfall helped keep brood habitat on the map into late summer in many areas.”
Game and Fish biologists conduct a separate survey in September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting seasons.
Mallards, gadwall and blue-winged teal are the top three duck species that nest in North Dakota, and together they accounted for nearly 80 percent of the broods observed in the summer survey. Mallard brood numbers were up about 15 percent from last year, gadwalls were up about 28 percent, and blue-winged teal broods were down about 5 percent. Blue-winged teal are typically the most prevalent breeding duck in North Dakota.
The Game and Fish summer duck brood survey involves 18 routes that cover all sectors of the state except west and south of the Missouri River. Biologists count and classify duck broods and water areas within 220 yards on each side of the road.
The survey started in the late 1950s, and all routes used today have been in place since 1965.