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State of the Birds Report

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Conservation Management Produces Results!

Long-tailed Ducks by Gerrit Vyn

The rich tradition of waterfowl hunting in North America has ensured a sustainable population of waterfowl across the continent. Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (“Duck Stamps”), purchased primarily by hunters, have provided more than $700 million for wetlands conservation. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), enacted in 1989, set the stage for creative partnership funding to protect vital wetlands. In an unparalleled conservation partnership among Canada, the United States, and Mexico, NAWCA partners have raised more than $3 billion dollars and have conserved nearly 25 million acres of wetlands and associated upland habitats.

Waterfowl habitat conservation in North America serves as an example for other conservation challenges and offers hope that through synergy, planning, collaboration, and persistence, we can conserve and restore wetland habitats for the benefit of both wildlife and future generations.


Successful waterfowl conservation in North America is a model for widespread habitat protection that has reversed the declines of many bird species.


The State of Our Nation’s Waterfowl

Among 44 species of ducks, geese, and swans, 2 are listed as federally threatened and 2 are of conservation concern (Emperor Goose and Trumpeter Swan). The waterfowl indicator, based on 39 hunted species, has increased steadily over the past 40 years, reflecting the success of management efforts. Many ducks, such as Mallard, Gadwall, Wood Duck, and Redhead, show stable or increasing populations, and most arctic-nesting geese, as well as Trumpeter Swans, have increased dramatically. Reintroduced populations of resident Canada Geese in the lower 48 states have been so successful that the geese have become a problem in many urban areas. However, a few duck populations, notably Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, and several sea ducks, continue to show troubling declines.


Waterfowl Indicator


Birds in Trouble

Federally listed as Threatened: Spectacled Eider, Steller’s Eider. 

  • Significant declines of Northern Pintail and Lesser Scaup represent continued challenges for waterfowl management. Pintail numbers dropped to 2.6 million in 2008, 36% below the long-term average.

  • Although not as well monitored as other species, several “sea ducks” such as King Eider, White-winged Scoter, and Long-tailed Duck appear to be declining—perhaps reflecting increasing threats in their coastal wintering habitats.


Reasons for Hope

Wood Duck
by Tim Springer

In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that there were 37.3 million breeding ducks, an increase of 11% above historical averages through 2007. Redheads reached a record high and estimates for the Green-winged Teal were the second highest on record. Changes in precipitation, land use, and management practices encouraged by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan have contributed to recent waterfowl recoveries.

Ross’s Goose was estimated at only 2,000 to 3,000 individuals in 1931, prior to stringent hunting regulation. After regulation, the population recovered to 188,000 breeding birds in 1988, and growth continues. Most other arctic-nesting geese have increased dramatically as well.

Wood Ducks have responded well to nest-box programs throughout their range; populations increased by more than 200% in the past 40 years.

See next page for information about marsh birds.



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