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Duck Brood Numbers Up Following Drought Year

State Game and Fish Department migratory bird biologists expect a fall flight of ducks from North Dakota similar to 2007, 2008 and 2017.

To bring that forecast closer to home, the fall flight is anticipated to be about 26% above last year’s fall flight, based on observations from the Department’s annual mid-July duck production survey.

According to Mike Szymanski, Department migratory game bird management supervisor, the Department’s 75th annual breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 3.4 million ducks in the state. This year’s breeding duck index was the 23rd highest in the 75 years of the survey, up 16% from last year, and 38% above the long-term average.

The number of broods observed during the Department’s July brood survey was up 36% from 2021, and 5% above the 1965-2021 average index. The average brood size was 7.2 ducklings, up 11% from 2021. The long-term average is 7.0 ducklings per brood.

“Production appeared to be very late this year with many nests hatching throughout all of July and into August,” Szymanski said.

Following severe drought of 2021, wetland conditions across the state varied from good to excellent in May. Szymanski said the wetland index skyrocketed 616%, marking the largest single-year percentage increase on record.

Even so, he warned in early September that it was getting dry on the landscape.

“Wetland habitat conditions in the state have dried up substantially from a very wet spring and continued to dry through August,” Szymanski said. “Our September wetland survey will shed some light on just how much we’ve dried up.”

Game and Fish biologists will conduct a separate survey in mid-September to assess wetland conditions heading into the waterfowl hunting season.