The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its 2022 waterfowl breeding population survey. The resulting data indicate the overall number of breeding ducks has decreased by 19 percent, including mallards that are the most abundant duck in the survey.
“Surveys indicated a 25 percent decrease in mallard abundance,” said CDFW’s Waterfowl Program Biologist Melanie Weaver. “Habitat conditions are poor in both northeastern California and the Central Valley, so below-average production for most waterfowl species is expected.”
The full Breeding Population Survey Report, which can be found on the CDFW website, indicates the total number of ducks (all species combined) decreased from 470,450 in 2019 (the last year the survey was conducted) to 379,870 this year. This estimate is 30 percent below the long-term average. The estimated breeding population of mallards decreased from 239,830 in 2019 to 179,390 this year, which is below their long-term average. The decline is attributed to the ongoing drought and the loss of upland nesting habitat for ducks.
CDFW biologists and warden-pilots have conducted this survey annually using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. The population estimates are for those areas where most of the waterfowl nesting occurs in California, including wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Marsh and some coastal valleys.
The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from breeding areas surveyed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada, and these results should be available by August. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by the USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when setting hunting regulations for the Pacific Flyway states, including California.