Recent Progress: Increase

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) conducts a Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey each January to determine the abundance and distribution of several species of waterfowl. While the USFWS Division of Migratory Birds, Atlantic Flyway Council, Atlantic Joint Venture and Black Duck Joint Venture are working to revise this survey and improve abundance and distribution estimates, a rolling three-year average of pertinent survey results can be used to track progress toward this outcome.

According to survey results, an average of 51,332 black ducks were observed in Chesapeake Bay watershed states between 2013 and 2015. This marks a five percent increase from the average number of black ducks observed in the region between 2012 and 2014 and 51 percent of the 100,000-bird goal.

Outlook: Off Course

The Black Duck Outcome is off course. While a target and baseline have been established, the data needed to track restored habitat is lacking. Data support is needed to identify a better tracking method to measure tidal wetland acreage—the primary habitat for black ducks. As this outcome is closely tied to the Wetlands Outcome, any challenges associated with the restoration and implementation of wetlands also apply to the Black Duck Outcome. Therefore, it is assumed the trajectory is off course due to the lack of available data.

Once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America, the American black duck has experienced a population decline as our land use has changed and its food and habitat have disappeared. Black duck abundance serves as an indicator of wetland health and food availability. The survey used to estimate the abundance of black ducks and other waterfowl is conducted on or around January 1 each year.

In recent years, black duck numbers have risen inconsistently. The mid-Atlantic region (which includes the Chesapeake Bay) supports the largest population of wintering black ducks in eastern North America. The 100,000 bird target for this outcome is based on a goal set forth in the USFWS North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which calls for a continental black duck breeding population of 640,000 birds. Preserving habitat in the Bay watershed is critical to the long-term sustainability of the species.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Restoring historic black duck breeding or wintering habitat;
  • Enhancing and managing black duck habitat, which may include restoring riparian buffers, underwater grass beds or converted wetlands; managing open marshes and wetland water levels; and managing beavers, controlling exotic and invasive species, and performing prescribed burns;
  • Protecting black duck habitat, which may include putting conservation easements in place;
  • Managing predation;
  • Managing interspecies competition and hybridization; and
  • Reviewing and streamlining regulatory legislation and enforcement and permitting processes.

Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to wetland conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program's partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in November of 2020. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in November 2022.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team.

Participating partners include:

  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife (State of Delaware)
  • University of Delaware (State of Delaware)
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
  • University of Massachusetts Northeast Climate Science Center, Landscape Ecology Lab and Department of Environmental Conservation (State of Massachusetts)
  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • Department of Energy and Environment (District of Columbia)
  • Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • Black Duck Joint Venture (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • National Wildlife Refuge System (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake Bay Program Local Government Advisory Committee)
  • Ducks Unlimited