2014 Habitat Conditions
Spring was delayed even later than last year across most of the survey area. Habitat conditions during the survey were mostly improved or similar to last year, due to average to above-average annual precipitation. The exceptions were west-central Alberta and east of James Bay in Quebec. Alaska was the only region that experienced an early spring. The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 7.2 ± 0.2 million which was similar to the 2013 estimate of 6.9 ± 0.2 million and 40% above the long-term average of 5.1 ± 0.03 million.
In the traditional survey area, the majority of the Canadian prairies had below to well-below-average winter temperatures and average precipitation. Southern Manitoba benefitted from last year’s summer and fall precipitation, whereas southern Saskatchewan and most of Alberta were aided by spring 2014 precipitation. The 2014 estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 4.6 ± 0.2 million. This estimate was similar to the 2013 estimate (4.6 ± 0.2 million) and 33% above the 1961–2013 average (3.5 ± 0.03 million). The Parklands remained in good condition from previous years’ carry-over water and the boreal region has benefitted from above-average annual precipitation. Most of the Canadian portion of the traditional survey area was rated as good or excellent this year and the region continued to receive additional precipitation after the survey.
Much of the U.S. prairies had average winter precipitation and well-below-average winter temperatures that continued into spring. Habitat conditions improved in the western Dakotas and Montana from 2013 but remained similar in the eastern Dakotas. The 2014 pond estimate for the northcentral U.S. was 2.6 ± 0.1 million which was similar to the 2013 estimate (2.3 ± 0.1 million) and 53% above the 1974–2013 average (1.7 ± 0.02 million). Waterfowl habitat in North Dakota remains under pressure from wetland drainage, loss of CRP grasses, and energy development.