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Minnesota breeding waterfowl count shows numbers at or below long-term averages

Spring mallard numbers were 19% below the 2019 estimate but unchanged from the long-term average.

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A mallard drake lifts off a sodden corn field north of Grand Forks in this undated file photo.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s spring breeding waterfowl counts were at or below long-term averages for several species that nest in the state, the Department of Natural Resources reported Monday.

The DNR uses data from its spring waterfowl counts to produce population estimates. The 2022 breeding population estimates are:

  • Mallards: 231,000, which is 19% below the 2019 estimate and unchanged from the long-term average.
  • Blue-winged teal: 161,000, which is 28% below the 2019 estimate and 24% below the long-term average.
  • Other ducks, excluding scaup, (such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks, redheads and buffleheads): 175,000 which is 6% below the 2019 estimate and 3% below the long-term average.
  • Total breeding duck abundance (excluding scaup): 567,000, which is 18% below the 2019 estimate and 9% below the long-term average.
  • Canada geese: 115,000, which is similar to the 2019 estimate and 27% below the long-term average.
  • Trumpeter swans: 25,000, which is a new record high for the population. Survey methods for swans differ, and a long-term average is not available. 
It is true that few sporting endeavors are more physically challenging than busting through thick stands of aspen, oak, ash and gray dogwood, while following a good dog in search of ruffed grouse.

Overall, it was a very late spring across the state, especially in the north. It is likely that some blue-winged teal, a species that migrates relatively late in the spring, were still south of Minnesota when the survey began. As a result of the late spring, nesting effort and the number of young produced is expected to be below average for both ducks and Canada geese.

Minnesota’s early teal season opens Saturday, Sept. 3, and continues through Wednesday, Sept. 7. The early Canada goose season opens Saturday, Sept. 3, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 18. The state’s youth waterfowl hunt is Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11, and the regular waterfowl season opens Saturday, Sept. 24.

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