The Great Migration: Where Do Idaho’s Ducks Come From


When temperatures drop in December and January, duck hunting in much of Idaho often warms up with the arrival of the “birds of the north.” But where exactly do these birds come from in the north? Generally speaking, the most likely response for Idaho hunters is north of the border.

In a 2017 study, researchers at the University of Minnesota and the California Department of Water Resources shed additional light on the origin of dabbling ducks collected in the Pacific Flyway. Using abundance, banding and harvest data from the entire Pacific Flyway, as well as other important source areas of the nearby Central Flyway, the researchers were able to estimate where the ducks came from and where they were harvested over the course of about fifty years, from 1966. to 2013.

During this period, 38 percent of the most commonly caught dabbling ducks in Idaho, including green-winged teal, duck duck, pintail, mallard, chipeau duck and wood duck, came from the Alberta, followed by Idaho (17 percent) and Montana and the Dakotas. (13 percent).

Over three-quarters of all dabbling ducks harvested in Idaho are mallards, and Alberta is the largest source of the species in Idaho.

Alberta is also the largest source of Idaho’s chipeau duck, but when it comes to other species found on the straps of Idaho duck hunters, the province is not ahead of the pack. . It plays the second fiddle role behind the Yukon and Northwest Territories as Idaho’s largest source of duck ducks. Alaska is the largest source of green-winged teal and Idaho pintail, while British Columbia is Idaho’s largest source of wood ducks.

What about the ducks that come from in Idaho? Of the mallards banded in Idaho, 62 percent are harvested in the state. California hunters harvest more wood ducks native to Idaho (45 percent) than anywhere else in the flyway, followed by Idaho (24 percent).

Here are other study highlights for Idaho waterfowl hunters:

  • Alberta was the largest source of harvested mallards in Idaho (42 percent), followed by Idaho (21 percent), Montana and the Dakotas (15 percent), and British Columbia (10 percent) )
  • 43 percent of the chipeau duck harvested in Idaho came from Alberta, followed by Oregon (29 percent) and Montana and the Dakotas (13 percent), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (7 percent) and Idaho (7 percent)
  • A large portion of the ducks captured in Idaho came from the Yukon and Northwest Territories (44%), followed by Alberta (25%) and Alaska (23%).
  • Alaska is Idaho’s largest source of green-winged teal (63%) and northern pintail (50%).
  • About 70 percent of the wood ducks harvested in Idaho came equally from British Columbia or Idaho, followed by Alberta (25 percent)

Check “Distribution and diversion of dabbling duck catches in the Pacific Flyway“to view this study in depth.

The role of drought in waterfowl migration

By definition, waterfowl need water to thrive during their migration and in their wintering grounds. When these wetlands dry up after long periods without rainfall, waterfowl – and by association, waterfowl hunters – often pay the price.

Across Canada, waterfowl habitat and summer breeding grounds experienced record low precipitation in addition to hot, dry weather. It goes without saying that waterfowl aren’t the only tenants to suffer when Mother Nature cuts off their water supply. The same agricultural fields and managed wetlands that support these waterfowl species during the summer also support other benefactors, from field mice to rice farmers. When there is scarcity of water for one, there is scarcity of water for all.

While the larger bodies of water in these places still hold a lot of water and are home to significant populations of ducks and geese during the summer months, the smaller pockets of wetlands were dry and arid. Drought in summer breeding areas and habitat, combined with mild, late winter conditions in Idaho can result in late arriving ducks.

For more information on waterfowl hunting in Idaho, hunters can pick up a Brochure 2021-2022 Migratory birds considered as game an approved supplier or your local regional fisheries and game office. Hunters can also download season and rule information, along with licenses and permits, free of charge from the Go Outdoors Idaho app available at the App store Where Google play store.


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