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.
Wintering Black Ducks in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (2009-2015)
Average black duck abundance as observed during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey.
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.