Doug Smith
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Duck hunters who liked last year’s waterfowl season probably will like this year’s.

This spring’s estimated continental breeding duck population — a record- high 49.5 million — is similar to last year’s estimate of 49.2 million, according to the federal survey released Thursday.

This year’s duck estimate is 43 percent higher than the long-term average.

“It’s looking very good,’’ said Jim Kelley, Mississippi Flyway representative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mallards and green-winged teal also were at record highs. Mallards were estimated at 11.6 million, similar to the 2014 estimate but 51 percent above the long-term average.

The survey estimated the number of green-winged teal estimated at 4.1 million, 19 percent above last year and 98 percent above the long-term average.

“This year’s population estimates are not due to great conditions this year, but are high because of several consecutive years of great production,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl.

“All the stars aligned in 2014: There was water in all the right places and at all the right times.’’

The survey counts breeding ducks; unknown is how well they reproduced this spring. That will be a key factor in what Minnesota hunters see this fall.

“We continue to have fairly good conditions on the prime breeding areas, and that hopefully portends for good numbers of birds in the fall,’’ said Kelley. “But obviously what happens in front of an individual’s blind is another matter.’’

The Fish and Wildlife Service survey summary emphasized that, saying food availability and the condition and distribution of water all influence local duck and goose abundance, distribution, behavior, and ultimately, hunter success.

See the full report at: http://www.fws.gov/birds/surveys-and-data/reports-and-publications/population-status.php