2013 Habitat Conditions
Despite a delayed spring over most of the survey area, habitat conditions during the 2013 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey were improved or similar to last year in many areas due to average to above-average annual precipitation, with the exception being southeastern Canada, the northeast U.S., and portions of Montana and the Dakotas. The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 6.95 ± 0.2 million which was 24% above the 2012 estimate of 5.5 ± 0.2 million and 35% above the long-term average of 5.1 ± 0.03 million.
Spring was much delayed across the traditional survey area. The majority of the Canadian prairies had average to below-average winter temperatures and above-average precipitation; however, a poor frost seal was produced and little runoff was observed. Extreme southern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba received abundant spring rainfall but most of this moisture came too late for the majority of waterfowl breeding this year. The 2013 estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 4.6 ± 0.2 million. This estimate was 17% above the 2012 estimate (3.9 ± 0.1 million) and 32% above the 1961-2012 average (3.5 ± 0.03 million). The Parklands have improved from 2012 and the boreal region has benefited from average annual precipitation. Most of the Canadian portion of the traditional survey area was rated as good or excellent this year, in contrast to the dry conditions last year across northern Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Much of the U.S. prairies had average winter precipitation and received record-breaking snowfall in April. Despite the moisture most of the habitat was fair to poor, which was unchanged from 2012. The 2013 pond estimate for the northcentral U.S. was 2.3 ± 0.1 million, which was 41% above the 2012 estimate (1.7 ± 0.1 million) and 42% above the 1974-2012 average (1.7 ± 0.02 million). Most of the increase in pond numbers resulted from 10 days of rain in May during the survey, and post-survey reconnaissance revealed numerous wetlands, with many unoccupied by waterfowl.