New Research Suggests Small Range Shifts in Three Midwest Duck Species

New Research Suggests Small Range Shifts in Three Midwest Duck Species

Using nearly six decades of research, a study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on June 3 suggests that blue-winged teal, mallards, and northern pintails have had small shifts in fall and winter range. The research, co-authored by researchers with USGS, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, used 60 years of band recovery data from the Central and Mississippi Flyways of North America to determine that blue-winged teal winter distributions shifted westward and southwards and that mallard and northern pintail distributions shifted eastward and northwards by 60 to several hundred miles.

The study notes that: “(W)hile the winter ranges of mallards and northern pintail did, indeed, shift northward during the months of December and January, the scale of the shifts were small compared to the overall geographic distributions of these species during those months. Furthermore, there was no evidence of complete abandonment of large wintering regions. And while the general trend of northward shifts in winter ranges was confirmed, the authors caution that summarizing shifts across species, months, or subpopulations may hide finer-scale patterns that would be important to habitat conservation and population management.”

“Sound science is the foundation of responsible waterfowl conservation and management,” said Ducks Unlimited Senior Waterfowl Scientist and study co-author Mike Brasher. “This study is another tool that Ducks Unlimited and our partners will use to guide our hunter-supported conservation efforts across the U.S. Through their 60 years of band reporting, waterfowlers have enabled us to scientifically study the dynamic migration habits of our ducks. And hunter support will also lead us to discover more efficient ways to improve the landscape."

“A wide variety of factors, including loss and degradation of breeding habitat, changing land use, climate change, and ever-evolving agricultural practices are likely all affecting migration patterns of ducks and geese," said USFWS Wildlife Biologist and study co-author Heath Hagy, who is also a project leader for the USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team. "The causes of the changes are complex, vary by species, and manifest themselves differently across breeding areas such that no single factor can be blamed directly for the changes.”

June 14, 2024