Continental duck population estimates show cause for excitement among fall waterfowl hunters

MADISON – With fall duck hunting seasons just around the corner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2016 continental duck population estimates [PDF] (exit DNR) are now available.

These estimates are the result of one of the largest bird surveys in the world conducted annually throughout North America. In years past, they were used to set waterfowl seasons for the current year. However, since the USFWS changed its regulatory timeline, 2016 estimates will be used to set the 2017 waterfowl season structure.

The 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey found green-winged teal populations at record highs
The 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey found green-winged teal populations at record highs
Photo Credit: DNR

The total 2016 duck population estimate is down slightly at 48.4 million, but still 38 percent above the long term average. Mallards and green-winged teal population estimates are at record highs — 11.8 million and 4.3 million, respectively. Continental blue-winged teal estimates are at 6.7 million, which is lower than 2015 but still well above the long-term average.

“The habitat was drier this year across much of the breeding grounds, and that is likely the reason for a slight drop in numbers,” said Taylor Finger, Department of Natural Resources assistant migratory bird ecologist. “That being said, Wisconsin remains at or near record numbers for many species, and hunters should expect another good year of hunting.”

For more information regarding waterfowl in Wisconsin, visit and search keyword “waterfowl.”

Harvest Information Program

Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters are reminded to register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program. This program places registrants on a list that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a harvest summary.HIP registration is free of charge and can be easily completed when a license is purchased. HIP registration can be added later if a hunter decides to pursue migratory game birds closer to the season.

With the transition to GoWild, the department’s new licensing system, it has never been easier or more convenient to register for HIP online. Simply log on to your online GoWild account, select “buy licenses” and navigate to the Hunt/Trap tab. If you have not already registered for HIP, it will be shown as a free sign-up option and will take only a minute to complete. For more general information, search keyword “HIP.”