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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 390 days

Spring waterfowl survey results show good production with lots of wetlands

Published by Central Office June 27, 2017

Contact(s): Taylor Finger, DNR migratory bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

MADISON -- Wisconsin's spring 2017 waterfowl population surveys indicate increased numbers of breeding waterfowl pairs and relatively good wetland conditions, which should result in increased waterfowl production this year across the state.

The Wisconsin breeding duck population estimate of 479,099 represents an increase of 23 percent compared to 2016, and 9 percent above the long-term (44-year) average. Of the species-specific population estimates for the three top breeding ducks in Wisconsin, (mallard, blue-winged teal and wood duck) the blue-winged teal, showed the largest increase from 2016.

Breeding duck estimate.
Breeding duck populations are estimated to be up 23 percent this year compared to 2016.
Photo Credit: DNR

This survey information, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continental duck survey and the Ontario Canada goose survey provides information regarding yearly waterfowl breeding conditions and is used to determine the fall season structure for Wisconsin.

For all surveyed waterfowl species, population counts showed increased numbers from the 2016 estimates. To view the full survey results for 2017 [PDF], visit and search keyword "waterfowl."

A very mild winter in 2016-17, combined with above normal rainfall in March and April, led to wet conditions throughout Wisconsin - rainfall in May following the survey helped Wisconsin remain at above average wetland conditions for the year during the important brood-rearing period. Wetland conditions remained above average for brood rearing, and Wisconsin is expected to provide good duck production in 2017.

These breeding pair and habitat conditions are important to waterfowl hunters as roughly 70 percent of mallard harvest in Wisconsin is supported by locally hatched ducks. Although higher this year, it is important to note that the average mallard population in the last few years has been lower than the previous decade. This observation suggests that continued efforts aimed at controlling mallard harvest impacts and support for grassland nesting habitat conservation are important to the future of Wisconsin's local mallard population.

Canada goose population estimates up from 2016

Wisconsin Canada goose harvest is supported by Canada geese breeding in northern Ontario, as well as those breeding locally in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin breeding estimate for Canada geese are up from 2016 and consistent with a stable population of roughly 140,000, which is the 10-year average. Continental breeding waterfowl population estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey are expected to arrive in July.

Under new federal framework, Wisconsin conducted its annual waterfowl season hearings this spring, and the Natural Resources Board approved department proposals for season structure at its April 12 meeting. With earlier approval dates, 2017 migratory bird season regulations [PDF] are currently available online and at many license vendors throughout Wisconsin.

With the department's transition to Go Wild, the Canada goose harvest registration phone number is now consistent with all other species registered in Wisconsin, and this new system provides for online registration. Hunters will now register online at or via phone at 844-426-3734 (844 GAME-REG). Registration within 48 hours of harvest is mandatory for all Canada geese harvested.

Canada Goose Hunting Permits are now printed on paper. Hunters are no longer required to conduct the in-field validation of their goose permit. However, hunters are still required to register their geese online or by calling in within 48 hours of harvest.

For more information regarding migratory birds in Wisconsin, search keyword "waterfowl."

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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