Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada

November 2013

Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Committee

CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 40

The Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp by artist Claude Thivierge. See the long description beneath.

Text Description for the cover page photo

The Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, entitled Break the ice, features the Long-tailed Duck. It is a creation of the Canadian wildlife artist Claude Thivierge of St. Zotique, Quebec.

Population status of migratory game birds in Canada (PDF, 3.9MB)

Table of Contents

Document Information

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Document Information

For more information on migratory birds, please visit Environment Canada’s Migratory Birds website.

Cover Art:

The Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, entitled Break the ice, features the Long-tailed Duck. It is a creation of the Canadian wildlife artist Claude Thivierge of St. Zotique, Quebec.

Through a special partnership with Environment Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada receives the revenues from the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permits. The conservation stamp is also sold to stamp and print collectors and those interested in contributing to habitat conservation. In 2012–2013, Wildlife Habitat Canada provided 34 grants totalling more than $1.3 million. This in turn helped leverage an additional $9 million in partner funding for conservation projects, resulting in the conservation, restoration and enhancement of more than 1 million acres of wildlife habitat across Canada (Wildlife Habitat Canada 2013).

For more information on Wildlife Habitat Canada or the conservation stamp and print program, please call Wildlife Habitat Canada at 613-722-2090 (in the Ottawa region) or toll-free at 1-800-669-7919.

This report was prepared by the Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Committee. The principal author is Eric Reed of the national office of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Correct citation for this report:
Canadian Wildlife Service Waterfowl Committee. 2013. Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada: November 2013. CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 40.

Comments regarding this report, the regulation-setting process or other concerns relating to national migratory game birds should be sent to the Director of the Population Conservation and Management Division at the national office of the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada, at the following address:

  • 351 St. Joseph Boulevard, Gatineau QC K1A 0H3

Region-specific comments should be sent to the appropriate Regional Director, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environmental Stewardship Branch, at the following addresses:

  • Atlantic Region: 17 Waterfowl Lane, P.O. Box 6227, Sackville NB  E4L 1G6
  • Quebec Region: 801–1550 d’Estimauville Avenue, Québec QC  G1J 0C3
  • Ontario Region: 4905 Dufferin Street, Toronto ON  M3H 5T4
  • Prairie and Northern Region: Twin Atria No. 2, 4999–98 Avenue, Edmonton AB  T6B 2X3
  • Pacific and Yukon Region: 5421 Robertson Road, R.R. #1, Delta BC  V4K 3N2

This report may be downloaded from the Consultation Process on Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations website.

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Canadian hunting regulations for migratory game birds are reviewed annually by Environment Canada, with input from the provinces and territories and a range of other stakeholders. As part of this process, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment Canada produces three reports each year. The first report, Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada (commonly called the November report), contains population and other biological information on migratory game birds, and thus provides the scientific basis for management. The second report, Proposals to Amend the Canadian Migratory Birds Regulations (the December report), outlines the proposed changes to the annual hunting regulations, as well as proposals to amend the overabundant species regulations and other proposed amendments to the Migratory Birds Regulations. Proposals for hunting regulations are developed in accordance with the Objectives and Guidelines for the Establishment of National Regulations for Migratory Game Bird Hunting. The third report, Migratory Birds Regulations in Canada, summarizes the hunting regulations for the upcoming hunting season. The three reports are distributed to organizations and individuals with an interest in migratory game bird conservation, to provide an opportunity for input on the development of hunting regulations in Canada.

Data presented in the Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada report come from a variety of sources. Breeding population estimates and trends for inland ducks are derived from large-scale systematic aerial surveys conducted annually in eastern and western Canada and parts of the United States. Additional small-scale, usually annual, breeding waterfowl surveys are also conducted in other parts of this country. Information on sea duck populations comes mainly from surveys limited to a few key locations or a small portion of the species’ range, and the surveys are conducted during the breeding, moulting or overwintering period. Geese population estimates and trends are derived mainly from specific annual or occasional surveys carried out during the breeding season or, in some cases, during migration. Additional information on waterfowl populations is also provided by mid-winter surveys on the wintering grounds conducted annually in the four U.S. flyways. Population information on swans and other migratory game birds is derived from specific breeding or wintering surveys or countrywide breeding bird surveys. Harvest levels of migratory game birds in Canada and the United States are estimated through national harvest surveys and, in some cases, through species-specific surveys. From 1961 through 2001, estimates of waterfowl harvest in the U.S. were derived from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Waterfowl Questionnaire Survey. However, a new survey, the Harvest Information Program, was fully implemented in 1999. In addition to waterfowl, it gathers information on species and groups of migratory game birds such as woodcock, doves and snipe. Harvest estimates yielded by the two surveys cannot be directly compared.

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Population Status of Inland Ducks

Eastern Canada

In Eastern Canada, breeding waterfowl populations are monitored annually through the Eastern Waterfowl Breeding Ground Survey (hereafter referred to as the Eastern Waterfowl Survey). The CWS carries out a systematic helicopter survey over the Boreal Shield region from northeastern Ontario to Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Atlantic Highlands region from the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec to Nova Scotia. The USFWS conducts a fixed-wing aerial survey in parts of eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. (Figure 1). This work has been evolving since 1990, originating as part of the Black Duck Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The surveys are designed and timed primarily to provide reliable breeding population estimates and trends for the American Black Duck, an early nesting species.

Historically, the data from these surveys (CWS and USFWS) have been analyzed separately, despite some overlap in geographic coverage. In 2004, the CWS and the USFWS agreed to integrate the two surveys to reduce the extent of overlap and expand the geographic region covered. The data presented in this report represent an integration of the results of the two survey platforms. In time, all survey results will be integrated for reporting on a regional basis. Technical issues grounded some of the USFWS aircraft during the 2013 breeding waterfowl survey period such that several strata were covered only by CWS crews using helicopters. The integrated survey approach ensures that this year’s results are consistent with those of previous years.

Additional breeding population surveys are also conducted in some parts of eastern Canada, although they are presently not included in the integrated Eastern Waterfowl Survey.

In southern Ontario, a breeding waterfowl survey of ground plots was conducted by the CWS at three- to five-year intervals from 1971 to 2004. In 2005 it was changed to an annual survey employing a rotating sample of the original plots.

In southern Quebec, beginning in 2004, helicopter surveys along the St. Lawrence River shoreline (106 10 km x 1 km transects randomly distributed in the fluvial, the estuary and the gulf sections) and in the lowlands (100 2 km x 2 km plots systematically distributed in the Abitibi, the Lake St. Jean and the St. Lawrence plain regions) were added to assess the value of these areas to breeding waterfowl on a regular basis. Due to budget constraints, the St. Lawrence shoreline survey was discontinued in 2010. A statistical analysis of the lowlands survey in 2011 revealed that the level of precision was insufficient. Therefore, in 2012, the Abitibi and Lake St. Jean survey areas were dropped and sampling effort was increased in the St. Lawrence lowlands to increase precision. The St. Lawrence lowlands is the region of Quebec facing the greatest pressures related to habitats and waterfowl populations, among which Black Duck and Mallard populations need to be particularly closely monitored.

An aerial survey program to assess waterfowl breeding in agricultural landscapes in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was initiated in 2008. This program is supported by the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture and was expanded from 2009 to 2012 to include agricultural land on Prince Edward Island. Although not fully integrated into the Eastern Waterfowl Survey analysis, data from these surveys are providing resource managers with insight on the relative value of these areas to breeding waterfowl in the region. Surveys in 2013 were restricted to those plots located on Prince Edward Island that provide five years of information for surveyed landscapes in the target area. Additional analysis of these data is pending to determine the fate of this survey program in the future.

In this section, we summarize information on inland duck populations in Eastern Canada.

American Black Duck

There has been some concern over the American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) population of North America over recent decades, but today, the population has stabilized.

Mid-winter inventories in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways showed a decline in the continental population between 1955 and the early 1980s, when numbers began stabilizing at a low level (Figure 2). The total number of Black Ducks counted in both flyways combined in winter 2013 (225 034) was 9% lower than the 2012 count (246 334) and is 1% above the 2002–2011 average (223 855). In 2013, the estimated population of Black Ducks in the Atlantic Flyway was 208 195, while in the Mississippi Flyway it was 16 839 (Klimstra and Padding 2013). Surveys of American Black Ducks in their wintering areas are useful for studying overall population trends, but they are not effective for evaluating the status of breeding populations, because of the mixing of birds from diverse breeding areas. In the area covered by the Eastern Waterfowl Survey, the integrated index of the number of indicated breeding American Black Ducks is shown in Figure 3.

The 2013 Eastern Waterfowl Survey estimate was 621 800 Black Ducks, which was 3% higher than the 2012 estimate (602 000) and similar to the 10-year (2002–2011) average of 622 620. Trends appear to be relatively stable for most survey strata, except for the Western Boreal Shield, where the trend is declining.

The decline of American Black Ducks on their wintering grounds prompted the United States to initiate a program to reduce the harvest of the species in 1983; Canada joined the initiative in 1984. Between 1984 and 1988, the harvest in the U.S. gradually decreased, while it remained relatively stable in Canada (Table 2). In 1989 and 1990, however, Canada successfully implemented more restrictive Black Duck hunting regulations to protect local breeding populations.

The number of Black Ducks harvested in Canada was higher in 2012 (103 362) than it was in the previous year, as was the United States harvest (94 559; Table 2). This marks the second year in a row of increased Black Duck harvest in Canada. The reasons for this increase in harvest are unknown but may be related to the distribution of Black Ducks during the hunting season and an increasing trend in the number of Black Ducks wintering in Canada.

Other Inland Duck Species

Eastern Waterfowl Survey

The Eastern Waterfowl Survey of Eastern Canada (Figure 1), though primarily designed to survey Black Ducks, provides quantitative information on other inland duck species that can be used to evaluate the status of their breeding populations. The range-wide integrated indices for the number of indicated breeding birds of the most abundant eastern dabbling and diving duck species are plotted in Figures 4a to 4c.


The estimated abundance of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in the Eastern Survey Area increased by 23% in 2013 compared to the 2012 estimate (Figure 4a). Overall, Mallards continue to exhibit increasing trends in all the regions covered by the Eastern Waterfowl Survey, with the highest rate of increase in the Atlantic Highlands.

American Green-winged Teal

The estimated abundance of Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) in the Eastern Survey Area increased by 12% in 2013 compared to the 2012 estimate (Figure 4b). American Green-winged Teal showed an increase in 2013 in the Atlantic Highlands, and Eastern and Western Boreal Shield regions and was stable in the Central Boreal Shield region. Overall, Green-winged Teal continues to exhibit stable trends, but with the Atlantic Highlands showing an increasing trend.

Ring-necked Duck

The estimated abundance of Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) in the Eastern Waterfowl Survey Area increased by 25% in 2013 compared to the 2012 estimate and was the second highest total since 1990 (Figure 4c). Overall, Ring-necked Duck continues to do well in the four regions covered by the survey.

Southern Quebec Waterfowl Survey

Since 2012, only the St. Lawrence lowlands are surveyed by helicopter (the Abitibi and Lake Saint-Jean plain regions have been dropped since 2011 to re-allocate sampling effort in the St. Lawrence Lowlands). Results for the 6 most abundant species are shown in Table 1b. The Mallard is by far the most abundant species in the St. Lawrence lowlands, with the 2013 estimate reaching 18 800 indicated breeding pairs. The species has experienced a low increasing long-term trend of 2.3% per year since 2004. The 2013 American Black Duck estimate reached 7600 pairs, with the species showing a stable trend (0.2% per year) since 2004. Green-winged Teals, Wood Ducks, temperate-breeding Canada Geese and Ring-necked Ducks continue to do well in this part of the province, with an increasing 2004–2013 trend of 3.3%, 7.5%, 6.0% and 6.0% per year, respectively (Table 1b).

Southern Ontario Waterfowl Plot Survey

Since 2005, the Southern Ontario Waterfowl Plot Survey has been conducted annually using a rotational sampling scheme where half of the 349 plots are surveyed each year. Prior to 2005, surveys were conducted sporadically (roughly every 3 years), and all plots were surveyed in a given year. In 1981 and 1982, survey effort was split and the survey was completed over a 2-year period (1981 – High Strata; 1982 – Low Strata). As a result, the population estimate for 1981 is determined using the combined data from 1981 and 1982 (Figures 5a, 5b, 34).

Results of the breeding waterfowl plot survey in southern Ontario are shown graphically in Figures 5a and 5b for the more common duck species encountered. Trend estimates are presented for the 2003–2013 and 1971–2013 periods (Table 1a). Among the dabbling ducks, Blue-winged Teal has exhibited a long-term declining trend (−5.9% annually) with the recent trend (2003–2013) also continuing to show a strong decline (−13.1%). Similarly, the population of American Black Duck shows a slight decreasing long-term trend (−1.2%) and a higher declining trend since 2003 (Table 1a; Figure 5a). The breeding population of Mallard, the most abundant duck species in southern Ontario, has increased slightly since 1981–1982; in 2013, there were approximately 148 000 breeding pairs of Mallards in southern Ontario. Wood Ducks have demonstrated a steady increase since 1971 (3.8% annually; Table 1a) and are the second-most-abundant duck species in this area. For diving ducks, all species demonstrate long-term increases in their breeding population (Figure 5b). Results for Common and Hooded Mergansers show that the breeding populations have stabilized since 2003 (Table 1a). Population estimates for Ring-necked Duck also show a positive trend over the long and short term (Table 1a). Annual population estimates for some species, such as the Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal and Ring-necked Duck, can be highly variable. For teal, this is related mainly to their general low abundance within the survey area. For Ring-necked Ducks, a later-nesting species, annual estimates may be influenced by the presence of large numbers of migrating birds in some years.

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Canadian Prairies and Western Boreal Canada

Breeding waterfowl populations are monitored annually through the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) of Western Canada (U.S. Department of the Interior and Environment Canada 1987). The traditional survey area encompasses the Canadian Prairies and Western Boreal Canada (northwestern Ontario to Old Crow Flats in the Yukon), as well as the north-central United States (U.S. Prairies) and parts of Alaska (Figure 6). The USFWS and CWS have been conducting this survey, using fixed-wing aircraft in combination with ground counts, since 1955. Breeding population estimates have been corrected for visibility bias since 1961.

Breeding Habitat Conditions in the Prairie Pothole Region

In the Prairie Pothole Region (Canadian and U.S. Prairies), weather has a strong influence on waterfowl breeding habitat conditions and, consequently, on the abundance of waterfowl populations. Droughts create difficult breeding conditions for ducks. Since 1961, spring habitat conditions have been measured by the number of ponds in May (Figure 7). In 2013, the total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) was 6.9 ± 0.2 million ponds. This was 24% above the 2012 estimate, and 35% above the long-term average of 5.1 ± 0.03 million ponds (USFWS 2013). The 2013 estimate of ponds in the Canadian Prairies was 4.6 ± 0.2 million ponds. This was a 17% increase from last year’s estimate (3.9 ± 0.1 million; Figure 7). An analysis of trends showed significant increases (p < 0.05) in the number of ponds in the Canadian Prairie Pothole Region during the last 10 years (2004–2013; Table 3).


The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) breeding population in the traditional survey area had recovered from the decline seen in the 1980s, but in 2001 it dropped below the NAWMP goal of 8.2 million (Figure 8), and remained below it until 2006. Between 2007 and 2009, the Mallard breeding population index in the traditional survey area oscillated around the NAWMP goal. In 2013, the Mallard breeding population index was 10.37 ± 0.36 million birds, which was similar to the 2012 estimate of 10.60 ± 0.32 million birds and 26% above the NAWMP goal. There are significant positive 5-year and 10-year trends in the traditional survey area (Table 3).

The 2013 Canadian Prairie breeding population index (4.16 ± 0.16 million) was similar to the 2012 estimate (4.16 million), and slightly below the NAWMP goal of 4.37 million birds for the region (Figure 8). In Western Boreal Canada, the Mallard breeding population index was 5% lower compared to the previous year, with an estimated 2.46 ± 0.26 million birds (Figure 8). There are significant positive 10-year trends in Western Boreal Canada as well as significant increasing 5-year and 10-year trends in the Canadian Prairies (Table 3).

The continental harvest of Mallards during the last several years increased considerably compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s (Table 4), reflecting the large growth in this population. This increase in harvest has occurred entirely in the U.S., whereas harvest levels have stabilized in Canada. In 2012, it was estimated that 3.96 million Mallards were killed in the U.S., 11% less than the previous year (4.17 million). In 2012 in Canada, the estimated harvest was 528 334 birds killed, a decrease of 4% from 2011 (509 889). Overall, the continental harvest of Mallards in 2012 decreased to 4.46 million birds, 10% less than the previous year (Table 4).

Northern Pintail

Following the dramatic decline in abundance in the 1980s and early 1990s, the breeding population of Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) in the traditional survey area showed signs of recovery in the late 1990s, increasing to 3.6 million birds by 1997 (Figure 9). Thereafter, pintail numbers again declined, reaching an historic low in 2002. Since 2003, the population has increased, reaching 4.43 million in 2011. In 2013, the population estimate was 3.33 ± 0.19 million birds. However, the population remains below the NAWMP goal of 5.56 million (Figure 9). Table 3 shows that the population is experiencing a significant increase in the traditional area survey over the past 10 years; however, the population still shows a significant long-term decline.

The 2013 breeding population in the Canadian Prairies was estimated at 1 228 255 ± 82 398 birds, which represents a 25% increase over the 2012 estimate of 984 331. The habitat conditions were again very good in 2012 with a very high number of ponds. The Canadian Prairies population still remains below the NAWMP population goal of 3.30 million. In 2013, Northern Pintail numbers increased by 135% and to 264 785 ± 38 537 birds in the Western Boreal Region (Figure 9). This population remains below the NAWMP goal of 407 000 pintails. In both the Western Boreal and Canadian Prairies Regions, the population shows a significant long-term decline although the Canadian Prairies show a short-term increase (Table 3).

The total annual harvest of Northern Pintails dropped with the population decline that began in the 1980s. The continental harvest gradually rose during the mid-1990s (Table 5), reflecting the increase in estimated pintail numbers during the same period. After a reduction in harvest during the 2002–2004 period, the continental harvest numbers increased again until 2011, driven by increases in U.S. harvest. In 2012 the estimated continental harvest declined by 16% (725 287 birds killed), with declines noted in both Canada (41 841) and the U.S. (683 446; Table 5).

Other Dabbling Ducks

Other dabbling duck species monitored under the WBPHS are Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), Gadwall (A. strepera), Green-winged Teal (A. crecca), American Wigeon (A. americana), and Northern Shoveler (A. clypeata). The continental abundance decreased slightly in 2013 relative to 2012 for all these species except American Wigeon (Figures 10 to 14). All species but the American Wigeon show significant positive 10-year and long-term trends (Table 3); the long-term trend for the American Wigeon is declining, but not significantly. There were increases in the 2013 population estimates for Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, and American Wigeon in the Canadian Prairies and slight decreases for Green-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler (Figures 10 to 14).

Of these five species, only American Wigeon is currently below its NAWMP population goal in the traditional survey area (Figures 10 to 14).


Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) and Greater Scaup (A. marila) are not treated separately in the WBPHS because it is difficult to differentiate among them from fixed-winged aircraft. Nonetheless, Lesser Scaup is the much more abundant species (Austin et al. 1999). After six consecutive years of increase, scaup populations in the traditional survey area declined by 20% in 2013 (4.17 ± 0.25 million birds) and are now 43% below the NAWMP goal of 6.3 million.

The scaup population size in Western Boreal Canada accounts for nearly two-thirds of the continental total. At 2.72 ± 0.23 million birds estimated in 2013, the number of scaup in Western Boreal Canada remains well below the NAWMP population goal of 4.3 million birds (Table 3). The Western Boreal breeding population showed a significant 10-year increasing trend, but also a significant long-term decline (Table 3). In 2013, the Canadian Prairie breeding population was estimated at 663 618 ± 70 238 birds, a 28% decline compared to the 2012 estimate. Although this regional population shows a significant 10-year increasing trend (Table 3), it remains well below the NAWMP goal of 1.05 million.

The harvest of Lesser and Greater Scaup has declined considerably in Canada over time (Tables 6 and 7). In 2012, the Canadian harvest of Lesser and Greater Scaup was estimated at 29 889 and 6387 birds, respectively, which in both cases represents an increase from 2011 (42% and 15%, respectively).

The scaup harvest has been quite variable in the U.S. (Tables 6 and 7). In 2012, the Lesser Scaup harvest was the highest reported since 1979 at 634 280 birds, which represented an increase of 179% compared to 2011. The Greater Scaup harvest has also been variable over the years in the U.S. The estimated harvest was 77 512 birds in 2012 (30% higher than in 2011). The large increase in harvest in the U.S. in 2013 coincided with a liberalization of the harvest regulations (daily bag limits went from 2–3 scaup in 2011 to 4–7 in 2012). However, the harvest under these liberal regulations was not expected to be as high as it was. USFWS biologists speculate that this great increase in scaup harvest was due to high hunter effort and high availability of scaup.  They suspect that many hunters decided to expend more effort on hunting scaup as a result of the increased bag limit.  They also think that 2012–2013 was one of those seasons when the scaup winter distribution was more coastal which would make them more available to hunters (Kristi Wilkins, USFWS, pers. comm.). The 2013 harvest regulations are back to a moderate package (i.e. daily bag limit of 2–3 scaup)

The continental harvest of Lesser Scaup was the second highest on record at 664 169 birds in 2012, an increase of 167% from 2011. Similarly, the continental harvest of Greater Scaup was up by 29% to 83 899 birds in 2012.

Other Diving Ducks

The other diving duck species monitored as part of the WBPHS are the Canvasback (Aythya valisineria), Redhead (A. americana), Ring-necked Duck (A. collaris) and Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis).

The breeding population of Canvasbacks in the Canadian Prairies has recovered somewhat from the population decline seen during the 1980s and early 1990s. The population has fluctuated widely in recent years (Figure 16). Overall in 2013, within the entire traditional survey area, Canvasback show significant increasing trends over the long and short terms, and the Canadian Prairie region also shows significant 10- and 5-year trends (Table 3). At 786 978 ± 57 583 Canvasbacks in 2013, the continental population is above the NAWMP goal of 41 868 (Figure 16).

The Canadian harvest of Canvasback has been fluctuating from year to year. In 2012, the estimated harvest was 5584, a decline of 57% from 2011 (Table 8). The harvest in the U.S. also fluctuates widely from year to year; the 2012 U.S. harvest was estimated at 117 249 birds, 17% below the 2011 estimate (Table 8).

Like the Canvasback, Redhead numbers are highly variable from year to year (Figure 17). The 2013 continental count of 1.20 ± 0.10 million birds is comparable to the estimates of the past 5 years, but higher than numbers estimated prior to 2006 (below 1 million, Figure 17). The population remains well above the NAWMP goal. Redheads show a significant increasing trend over the 10-year and long periods in the traditional survey area.

The Ring-necked Duck population shows an increasing trend of 2.5% per year over the long term for the Western Boreal and Canadian Prairies regions as well as the entire survey area (Table 3). No data were available for Ruddy Ducks in 2013. However, they have done well in recent years, with a significant increasing trend of 1.8% per year over the long term in the traditional survey area based on 2012 estimates (Figure 19).

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Southern Yukon

This was the 22nd year of the Cooperative Yukon Roadside Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey. This is a ground survey aimed at waterfowl as well as other waterbirds and shorebirds. It is intended to track trends only: there is no associated population estimate. The survey consists of counts in a sample of wetlands, conducted 5 times between early May and mid-June. The 2013 survey sample consisted of approximately 285 wetlands along the southern Yukon road system. To minimize issues due to missing data, a sample of 169 wetlands was chosen from the 287 to examine trends over the past 5, 10, and 15 years as well as the entire 22-year period. For each survey, the number of indicated pairs were calculated using standard operating procedures. The numbers presented in Figures 20 and 24 are the total number of indicated pairs on these 169 wetlands from all 5 surveys each year.

The spring of 2013 (March through May) was cooler and much wetter than normal in the Yukon/Northern B.C. Mountains Climate Region. Summer (June through August) temperatures and precipitation were well above normal. These conditions, combined with above-average winter precipitation and snowpack, resulted in many breeding wetlands in southern Yukon having much higher than normal water levels during May and early June.

Total duck numbers remained the same as last year. Decreases in the number of most dabbling ducks were observed (Figure 20), while the numbers of diving ducks and sea ducks showed increases (Figure 24). The most notable changes from last year were observed for Mallard (+20%), Northern Shoveler (+20%), and Scaup spp. (+28%). Long-term trends (5-, 10-, 15- and 22-year periods) were examined for the 10 major duck species counted during the Yukon survey. The only significant trends were: (1) a continued decline in Scaup spp. (primarily Lesser Scaup) over the past 10, 15 and 22 years, although the 5-year trend is stable; (2) a modest long-term (15 and 22 years) decline in American Wigeon; (3) a modest long-term (15-year trend) increase in Mallard; and (4) a modest increase (22-year period) in Gadwall. A cursory examination of the increasing Gadwall trend shows that it reflects increasing populations of this species in the vicinity of Whitehorse, likely related to a large sewage lagoon complex constructed there in 1996. Although the sample size is small, Trumpeter Swans continue to show highly significant increases over all periods (J. Hawkings, pers. comm.).

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Interior British Columbia

In general, the habitat conditions in May 2013 in the prime waterfowl areas of southern British Columbia were fair, and good in the northern portion of the province. Winter precipitation was average in the B.C. Interior during the 2012–2013 winter. However, cool and wet conditions in mid- and late April resulted in a typical snow accumulation up to the end of April, and the transition from accumulating to melting snow packs was delayed by one to two weeks in April 2013 (B.C. Water Supply and Snow Survey). Early May saw unseasonably warm temperatures and dry conditions that resulted in fast snowpack melting. In the southern part of the B.C. Interior, which contains the most productive waterfowl habitat in the province, wetland water levels were marginally lower than last year and below long-term average. Conversely, northern Interior wetlands had higher and near-average water levels.

Aerial surveys of breeding waterfowl have been conducted in the Central Interior Plateau of B.C. annually since 2006, over an area in excess of 10 million hectares. The survey used a strip-transect total count method similar to the one used for the mid-continent breeding waterfowl survey, although all waterfowl sightings are geo-referenced and associated with a unique habitat type (i.e., stream, wetland, river, lake, agricultural field) and ecological unit (ecosection) to allow for the subsequent determination of ecosystem-specific, habitat-to-species relationships and the development of landscape use models. Using the USFWS formula to estimate breeding waterfowl abundance, the duck population of the Central Plateau was estimated at 305 310 birds (SE = 15 975) in May 2013, with Mallards being the most abundant species (25% of the total). The overall estimate is 2% higher than the 297 964 total duck estimate for 2012 (A. Breault, pers. comm.).

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Population Status of Sea Ducks

There is concern about the population status of most of the sea duck species (tribe Mergini) that breed in North America. There are 15 species on the continent. Because many breed at low densities in remote parts of the continent and cover a broad geographic area, it is difficult to gather adequate information on their ecology and population dynamics. Consequently, sea ducks are poorly understood and few reliable population indices or estimates of annual productivity exist for many of the species. Much of our knowledge is based on very few localized studies. Harvest levels are also poorly understood. In comparison with other waterfowl, sea ducks have low reproductive rates, which means that population maintenance is highly sensitive to adult mortality. There is therefore limited potential for quick population recovery. Because of increasing concern about the status of sea ducks, the NAWMP Committee created the Sea Duck Joint Venture (SDJV) in 1998. The goals of the SDJV can be grouped under four broad categories: knowledge, communication, partnerships and conservation actions. The new SDJV Strategic Plan for 2014–2018 should soon be available. This plan will identify information needs for sea ducks and describe general strategies to address those needs. Harvest information is estimated through the national harvest survey programs in Canada and the U.S. However, harvest estimates are imprecise for some sea duck species due to small sample sizes.

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Common and King Eiders inhabit arctic and subarctic coastal marine habitats and have a circumpolar distribution. Their breeding ranges in Canada are extensive and cover most coastlines from the Beaufort Sea east into Coronation and Queen Maud gulfs, and north into the High Arctic islands, as well as throughout the eastern Canadian Arctic, including Hudson and James bays, and from the coast of Labrador south into New Brunswick. Eiders that breed in Canada and that winter as far north as open water persists form large aggregations in coastal areas. In the Pacific, they winter as far north as the polynyas adjacent to the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia, while in the northwest Atlantic they winter in Hudson’s Bay, southwest Greenland, and from the Labrador coast south to New York. Throughout their range, there are four subspecies of Common Eiders and two populations of King Eiders. These populations are thought to be demographically distinctive, as they experience different climatic conditions and local threats.

Eiders have long been exploited for food and eiderdown, and more recently they have become the focus of outfitted hunts along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Market hunting almost extirpated them from eastern North America by the end of the 19th century. The Migratory Birds Convention designated special protection to eiders and largely eliminated commercial hunting in North America. More recently, commercial exploitation of eiders in Greenland has led to concern for the sustainability of eiders wintering there (Hansen 2002; Gilliland et al. 2009). Unlike any other species of migratory birds in North America, Common Eiders in some areas of eastern Canada support large commercial and subsistence harvests of eiderdown, where it provides a cash crop in areas with low employment or is used locally for insulation in Inuit parkas and supports local economies.

Industrial activity in Canada’s north is likely to increase in the next decades. There is renewed interest in offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, as well as some areas in the eastern Arctic. Marine shipping is likely to increase in the Arctic, especially in Hudson Strait. Both the Beaufort Sea and Hudson Strait have important marine resting and feeding areas used by thousands of eiders at certain times of the year. Increased human activity in these areas could negatively affect eiders through disturbance and pollution from accidental spills or chronic discharge.

The remoteness of much of their breeding and wintering ranges, the existence of several distinctive populations, and the fact that eiders do not use recognized North American flyways all have been factors that have led to inconsistent or non-existent management and monitoring programs across Canada. Clearly, Canada has a core responsibility for their management, but cooperation is needed with northern wildlife management boards, Russia, Greenland, France and the U.S.

King Eider

Western Arctic Population

The population estimates and trends for the Western Arctic King Eider are currently based on a count obtained about every 10 years during spring migration at Point Barrow, Alaska (Suydam et al. 2000, 2008). These counts indicated a 56% decline in numbers over a 20-year period, from 800 000 in 1976 to about 350 000 in 1996. Counts in 2003 and 2004 suggest the population may have stabilized, or possibly increased, since the mid-1990s (304 000 ± 76 254 and 592 000 ± 172 011 in 2003 and 2004, respectively). Aerial transect surveys on western Victoria Island suggest that the King Eider population breeding on western Victoria Island declined by 54% between the early 1990s and 2004–2005 (Raven and Dickson 2006). The greatest decline occurred around Holman, the only community in the survey area.

Movement between nesting, moulting and wintering areas has been documented for King Eiders tagged with satellite transmitters on Victoria Island and Banks Island, Northwest Territories, and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The results show the majority of western King Eiders moult and winter off the east coast of Russia or off the coast of Alaska (Dickson 2012a). The west coast of Banks Island is a primary staging area during moult migration for King Eiders that were implanted with satellite transmitters on Banks Island, Northwest Territories (Dickson 2012b). The most heavily used staging area during the spring was the southeast Beaufort Sea (Dickson 2012a). King Eiders banded in the central Arctic, in the Queen Maud Gulf, have been recovered near Alaska as well as near Greenland (R. Alisauskas, pers. comm.).

The King Eider is harvested for subsistence use in Canada, Alaska and Russia. There is some concern that local harvest in communities such as Holman, Canada, are having an impact, yet harvest data for all three countries lack the accuracy and precision needed to model effects on adult survival. Fabijan et al. (1997) estimated a harvest in Alaska and Canada of 2–5% of the population from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. The eider harvest in Canada occurs mainly in June, with most (99%) of the harvest occurring at Holman (96% are King Eiders). Harvest data for Russia are speculative (probably numbers in the low 1000s).

Eastern Arctic Population

A review of available data on the wintering grounds in Greenland has shown a substantial decrease in the numbers of wintering and moulting King Eiders and suggests that the eastern Arctic population is declining. It is not known if this apparent decline represents a shift in distribution due to human disturbance (Suydam 2000). In the Rasmussen Lowlands of Nunavut, however, a significant decline in the numbers of King Eiders was seen between 1974–1975 and 1994–1995 (Gratto-Trevor et al. 1998). These findings support the concerns expressed by hunters in the area that numbers are declining (Johnston et al. 2000). In February 2010, CWS conducted exploratory surveys in parts of Hudson Strait and Frobisher Bay. These surveys confirmed the occurrence of large numbers of wintering King and Common Eiders at the northern tip of Labrador and southern tip of Baffin Island (S. Gilliland and C. Lepage, unpubl. data), with small numbers of birds occurring on the eastern side of Ungava Bay and in Frobisher Bay. The east coast of Baffin Island has not been explored, but anecdotal observations by helicopter pilots suggest concentrations of eiders may winter there as well (J. Innis, pers. comm.).

In the eastern Arctic, available harvest data for eiders are limited. However, the harvest of eiders (King and Common Eiders combined) in southwest Greenland is estimated at over 100 000 birds annually. A large proportion of this harvest consists of Canadian breeding birds, since the breeding population of Common Eiders in western Greenland is likely only 20 000 pairs, based upon recent surveys (G. Gilchrist, pers. comm.). The largest eider harvests in Canada occur in Newfoundland, where about 10% of the harvest may be composed of King Eiders (Gilliland and Robertson 2009).

Pacific Common Eider

Pacific Common Eider population estimates and trends for Canada are currently based on a count obtained about every 10 years during spring migration at Point Barrow Alaska (Suydam et al. 2000, 2008). These counts indicated a 53% decline over a 20-year period from 156 000 in 1976 to about 73 000 in 1996. More recent counts in 2003 and 2004 suggest the population has increased since the mid-1990s to over 100 000 eiders.

Surveys during spring migration in the late 1980s suggested that more than half of the Pacific Common Eiders that breed in Canada nest in Dolphin and Union Strait, Coronation Gulf, and Queen Maud Gulf. To document the size and location of nesting colonies, provide a breeding population estimate for the region, and establish a baseline for monitoring Pacific Common Eider populations in the future, aerial and ground surveys were conducted over 3 years beginning in 1995. The breeding population for the central Arctic was estimated at about 37 000, and the primary nesting areas were identified as southeastern Dolphin and Union Strait, outer Bathurst Inlet, Melville Sound, Elu Inlet and central Queen Maud Gulf (L. Dickson, pers. comm.).

Aerial surveys in late June in the Bathurst Inlet area were conducted in 1995 and in 2006–2008 to establish a baseline for monitoring Pacific Common Eider breeding population trends (Raven and Dickson 2008). At a subset of 24 colonies in the same area, nest success and annual survival of adult females were monitored over a 7-year period starting in 2001 (Hoover and Dickson 2007).

Satellite telemetry of eiders from a nesting colony near Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, indicated that most of these eiders winter off the southeast coast of Chukotka Peninsula, Russia, and off the coast of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska (Dickson 2012b). About one third of the males also moult off Russia. Harvest information for eastern Russia is limited, but suggests a substantial take of eiders. A rough estimate of the subsistence harvest in 2001 in Chukotka was 115 000 eiders (from 4 different species; E. Syroechkovski Jr., pers. comm.). However, it is not known what percentage of this take is Pacific Common Eiders from Canadian breeding grounds. The subsistence harvest of Pacific Common Eiders in Canada and Alaska is an estimated 2500 birds per year (Fabijan et al. 1997).

Northern Common Eider

The northern subspecies of the Common Eider breeds throughout the coastal areas of the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland, and winters along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and southwest Greenland. This subspecies is unique in that it is intensively harvested commercially in west Greenland and is subjected to both subsistence and recreational harvest in Canada. Demographic modelling recently suggested that harvest levels were unsustainable (Gilliland et al. 2009). The bulk of the harvests occur in Greenland and insular Newfoundland, but harvest levels in Greenland were determined to be excessive, leading to a harvest allocation issue with Canada. More restrictive harvest regulations were put in place in Newfoundland in 1997 and Greenland in 2002–2004 (Merkel 2010), resulting in a decrease in overall harvest, but harvest levels remain high. Pressures to liberalize harvest in Greenland and Newfoundland continue, and population impacts of recent avian cholera outbreaks in the Canadian Arctic continue to be a major population threat.

Despite the harvest issue, there is no recent data on breeding areas: the very large distribution of this subspecies in the Canadian Arctic makes it very difficult to survey on a regular basis. Historical data exist only for three sites: Ungava Bay, Hells Gate (High Arctic) and Digges Sound. Recent surveys in Greenland indicate that dramatic population declines have occurred since the 1970s. However, a community-based monitoring program implemented following the 2002–2004 harvest restriction has documented a strong recovery of eiders breeding in western Greenland (Merkel, pers. comm.)

A winter monitoring program was implemented in 2003 to estimate population size and trends for the component of this subspecies that overwinters in Canada. The entire wintering range of Northern Common Eiders in eastern Canada (and St. Pierre and Miquelon, France) has been surveyed every third winter since the survey was implemented in 2003. Population estimates in 2003, 2006 and 2009 were 204 000 ± 15 500, 175 800 ± 8000 and 204 800 ± 22 400, respectively, suggesting that the Canadian overwintering component has been stable over this period (Gilliland et al., in prep.). The survey of the wintering range was repeated in February 2012, but results have not been photo-corrected yet.

Emerging threats for Northern Eiders include disease, disturbance of breeding colonies by polar bears, increased shipping through Hudson Strait, oil mortality, and high harvest in Newfoundland. For example, the first recorded Arctic outbreaks of avian cholera were recorded in Common Eiders in 2004 (northern Quebec), 2005 (Southampton Island) and 2006–2007 (Southampton Island and northern Quebec). Between 2004 and 2005, many hundreds of Common Eider ducks died of avian cholera at nesting colonies in northern Hudson Bay and west Hudson Strait in July and August. This finding was first detected by local residents hunting in the area near Ivujivik, northern Quebec. In the summer of 2006, cholera was again detected at eider colonies along the northern coasts of Quebec in Nunavik, and at East Bay, Southampton Island, Nunavut. At East Bay, over 3200 eiders (i.e., more than 40% of the nesting females) were killed between late June and early August 2006 (Gilchrist, unpubl. data). Similarly, Inuit from Nunavut and Nunavik have recently reported catastrophic losses at many breeding colonies as a result of polar bear activity. Although polar bear activity has been observed intermittently, it has never been observed at the current levels, and cholera has never been observed in Arctic breeding eiders.

Harvest information is estimated through the national harvest survey programs in Canada and the U.S., and these estimates are thought to be imprecise for most sea duck species. This survey has shown that harvest of eiders has generally declined over the last 30 years; however, harvests in Newfoundland and Labrador have been increasing since 2005, and unusually high levels were recorded in 2007 and 2008. These levels have not been observed since the mid-1980s and may be unsustainable (Gilliland et al. 2009).

Hudson Bay Common Eider

The Hudson Bay subspecies of the Common Eider breeds within Hudson Bay and winters in open water leads near the Belcher Islands and off the western coast of Quebec. This is one of the only waterfowl species in the world that spends the entire year in Arctic waters. Mass die-offs can occur in winter when large portions of the population are concentrated in open-water leads that sometimes freeze over (Robertson and Gilchrist 1998). The frequency and magnitude of these die-offs and the impact that they have on the Hudson Bay Common Eider population is unknown.

Breeding data for this subspecies only exist for the Belcher Islands and the area of La Perouse Bay, Manitoba. The Belcher Islands, first surveyed in the 1980s, were resurveyed in 1997. The results showed that the breeding population had declined by 70% since the late 1980s, apparently due to winter weather events (e.g., freezing of polynyas) that led to high levels of mortality in 1992 (Robertson and Gilchrist 1998). The CWS initiated research into the winter ecology of Hudson Bay Common Eiders in 1998. The three winters that followed were mild, with vast expanses of open sea available to foraging flocks. There have been no significant winter kill events since this work began, and the eider population appears to be recovering.

American Common Eider

The current American Common Eider population estimate is around 300 000 birds (Lepage and Bordage 2013) and this eider is among the most commonly harvested waterfowl in several coastal regions of eastern Canada and the U.S. The sustainable harvest rate was estimated around 10% (Savard et al. 2004), and the current harvest estimate is about 32 000 birds, which exceeds the estimate of sustainable harvest for this subspecies. Historically, the majority of the American Common Eider harvest occurred in Canada; however, the Canadian harvest has declined, while the subspecies has become the focus of outfitted hunts along the eastern seaboard of the U.S., and the U.S. now takes about 65% of the total harvest. In addition to the recreational harvest, American Common Eiders are harvested for Aboriginal subsistence use and are locally important for some Aboriginal communities in Quebec and Atlantic Canada; no estimates of subsistence harvest are available. Eiderdown harvest also represents an important economic activity in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

Reliable data for breeding areas only exist for segments of the population that breed in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Trends were stable in the estuary and appeared to be increasing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Rail and Cotter 2007), but now appear to be declining at about 3% per year (J.-F. Giroux, Université du Québec à Montréal, pers. comm.). The number of eiders breeding in northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador also appear to be increasing (S. Gilliland, unpubl. data). There is little information on the status of the population segments breeding in the southern portion of their range. Preliminary analysis suggests that eiders breeding in New Brunswick may be experiencing a long-term decline of about 3% per year (K. Conner, unpubl. data), and anecdotal information for Nova Scotia and Maine suggests declines in the number and size of breeding colonies in these areas.

Diseases may play an important role in the dynamics of this population. Intermittent outbreaks of avian cholera have been reported throughout their range, with the most recent event occurring in 2002, when an estimated 6000 adult females died at breeding colonies in the St. Lawrence Estuary (Joint Working Group on the Management of the Common Eider 2004). Beginning in 1998, 11 mystery winter mortality events involving 30 to 2800 eiders were observed along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (C. Dwyer, unpubl. report). In late 2010, diagnosticians at the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) at the University of Georgia isolated a previously undescribed orthomyxovirus, tentatively named Wellfleet Bay Virus, implicated in the die-offs (C. Dwyer, pers. comm.). The impacts of these emerging and re-emerging diseases on American Common Eiders is poorly understood; however, research programs at the Université du Québec à Montréal, led by J.-F. Giroux, are focusing on the impact of avian cholera on population dynamics of eiders breeding in the St. Lawrence Estuary, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center has been collaborating with the SCWDS and the USFWS to further characterize the orthomyxovirus.

In addition to diseases, recent changes in predator communities have also been implicated as potential stresses on American Eiders breeding in the southern portion of their breeding range. Population recovery of river otters, Great Black-backed Gulls and Bald Eagles have all been identified as potential sources of mortality and disturbance at American Eider breeding colonies in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine.

In response to concerns for this population, resource agencies in Canada and the U.S. are currently undertaking an assessment of the status of this population and are planning to implement a regular range-wide monitoring program for American Eiders (see Gilliland et al. 2011 and SDJV 2007). Accordingly, in May 2012, preliminary surveys of a few colonies in the St. Lawrence Estuary were conducted to test feasibility of counting males from the air and repeatability as a first step towards a concerted range-wide monitoring program.

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Harlequin Duck

Until the 1990s, there was little knowledge of the ecology of Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) in North America. However, research efforts have improved understanding of this species in some areas. Robertson and Goudie (1999) provide a review of available information on the Harlequin Duck.

Eastern Population

The eastern North American population of the Harlequin Duck was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as endangered in Canada in 1990. As a consequence, hunting of this species was shut down throughout the Atlantic Flyway. In the late 1980s, the population overwintering in eastern North America was estimated at less than 1000 individuals (Goudie 1991). Overhunting, disturbance and habitat loss are believed to have played a role in the decline of the population (Robertson and Goudie 1999). Later, new information indicating the number of harlequins breeding in Eastern Canada to be significantly larger than suspected led to the population being reassessed as a population of Special Concern (Thomas and Robert 2001).

Studies based on satellite telemetry suggested the existence of two Harlequin Duck populations: one that breeds in northern Quebec and Labrador and overwinters in southwest Greenland, and one that breeds in southern Labrador, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec, and winters mostly in the Maritimes and Maine (Brodeur et al. 2002). Genetic studies support the existence of two populations with minimal gene flow (Scribner et al. 2000). The extent to which the breeding and wintering areas of these populations overlap is unknown. The size of the harlequin population that originates in Canada and overwinters in Greenland is also not known, but 6200 moulting harlequins were estimated along the western coast of Greenland during surveys in 1999 (Boertmann and Mosbech 2002). The population of Harlequin Ducks wintering in eastern North America is estimated at about 3000 birds, with slightly more than half (~1600) wintering in Maine at a single location (Mittelhauser 2008; Robertson and Goudie 1999; Thomas and Robert 2001). Numbers of Harlequin Ducks wintering in Eastern Canada have shown increases since the mid-1980s. Winter surveys conducted in 2010 identified approximately 300 birds in the Bay of Fundy, 600 on the southern and eastern coasts of Nova Scotia, and roughly 450 wintering in Newfoundland. This was encouraging news, given the dramatic decline that occurred there through the 1980s and early 1990s.

Robertson et al. (2008) published a summary of the status of the eastern population of Harlequin Duck, and a document entitled Management Plan for the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), Eastern Population, in Atlantic Canada and Quebec is available.

Western Population

Reflecting conservation concern for Harlequin Ducks, considerable attention has focused on western populations, particularly in the Strait of Georgia, over the past 15 years (S. Boyd and D. Esler, pers. comm.). Collaborative efforts by the CWS and Simon Fraser University have revealed much about the ecology and conservation of Harlequin Ducks; in fact, Harlequin Ducks in the Strait of Georgia are frequently highlighted as one of the sea ducks about which an unprecedented understanding of ecology and demography exists. In brief, findings include: (1) the Strait of Georgia provides non-breeding habitat for >10 000 Harlequin Ducks; (2) concentrations in the Strait of Georgia during the spring herring spawn number in the thousands, which is a globally unique aggregation; (3) birds wintering in British Columbia breed across a wide range of mountain streams throughout the province and beyond; (4) they show very strong fidelity to wintering and moulting sites, which means that local aggregations are largely demographically discrete and therefore vulnerable to high harvest and/or disturbance levels as well as habitat change; (5) at least some ducklings follow their mothers to wintering areas, further contributing to the formation of distinct, independent population segments; (6) annual survival of adults appears to be high and sustainable; and (7) production of young birds appears to be sufficient to maintain stable population numbers (S. Boyd and D. Esler, pers. comm.).

Focused studies of Harlequin Ducks in the Strait of Georgia are coming to a close. The CWS is completing an analysis of leg band data to determine survival rates, and will eventually publish the results. The CWS also hopes to re-establish field surveys of productivity, based on counts of male age ratios during winter, in order to document annual variation and derive long-term means. Also, a research program was completed by the Centre for Wildlife Ecology at Simon Fraser University to evaluate the roles of habitat quality and acquisition of nutrients for clutch formation (S. Boyd and D. Esler, pers. comm.).

An interesting behavioural change has occurred in recent years. Until just a few years ago, adult male Harlequin ducks typically returned to the White Rock B.C. area and nearby Birch Bay and Pt Roberts areas in WA State in the June-July period to moult their body and flight feathers. The males would then reconnect with their long-term partners once females completed their own moults, which usually occurred 1–2 months later than the males. However, that pattern does not occur anymore; the males now return 2–2.5 months later than they did historically and most show up in pre-alternate plumage. The reasons behind this change are unknown but they may be related to relatively high levels of disturbance from people, dogs etc. on the beaches during the male moult period, predation risk from an increasing Bald eagle population, a changing climate, or a combination of these and other factors. Harlequin duck numbers at White Rock have been declining gradually so it is possible that this behavioural change is somehow having a local population-level effect and it could also be important at the larger Salish Sea scale. Continued monitoring at the above three sites and at other Salish Sea sites, and tracking the summer-fall movement patterns of adult males, will help managers understand the long-term impact of this relatively new phenomenon.

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The three species of scoters that breed in Canada are Black Scoters (Melanitta americana), Surf Scoters (M. perspicillata) and White-winged Scoters (M. fusca). Less is known about scoters than about any other group of sea ducks. Research efforts in recent years have brought us to a better understanding of the breeding, moulting and wintering ecology of this group. Bordage and Savard (1995), Brown and Fredrickson (1997), and Savard et al. (1998) all provide useful reviews of the information available on scoters. Several projects supported by the SDJV have also addressed research on important information gaps about scoters.

Eastern Canada

Most Black Scoters breed in Eastern Canada and until recently the eastern breeding ground was thought to be centred in northern Quebec. However, recent satellite telemetry studies (2009–2010) of migrating birds marked in spring in the Chaleur Bay give evidence that pairs also breed west of Quebec, i.e., in northwestern Ontario, northern Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories east of Great Slave Lake (SDJV 2012). Western Black Scoters have a breeding ground centred in Alaska (Bordage and Savard 1995).

Surf Scoters are counted during the Eastern Waterfowl Survey, although the area surveyed (Figure 1) only partially covers the southern extent of the Surf Scoter breeding distribution. According to the Eastern Waterfowl Survey, Surf Scoters continue to do well in the boreal forest (Figure 22).

White-winged Scoters in Eastern Canada are the least numerous scoters. Known breeding grounds appear to be discontinuous, with a small population breeding by lakes along the northeastern corner of James Bay on the Quebec side, and the rest of eastern wintering and molting birds breeding from northern Manitoba as far west as the Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories (C. Lepage, CWS, pers. comm.).

The Chaleur Bay area as well as the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf are major spring staging areas for scoters. Aerial surveys that had been photo-corrected for observer error indicated an Atlantic Flyway spring staging population of about 90 000 Black Scoters, i.e., 52 000 in the Chaleur Bay and 36 300 in the St. Lawrence Estuary in 2005 (K. McAloney, CWS, unpubl. data). In 1998, over 220 000 scoters (the 3 species) were staging in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf (Rail and Savard 2003). Surf Scoters are the most numerous scoters in that region and are estimated to account for 70% of scoters.

While ground surveys in late July and early August of 2006 indicated that some 50 000 scoters (mostly male Surf and White-winged Scoters) moulted within the St. Lawrence Estuary (J.P. Savard, pers. comm.), a 2010 aerial survey reported approximately 90 000 moulting scoters in the same region; 95% of these scoters were Surfs (Bolduc et al. 2011). Between 50 000 and 62 000 moulting scoters (mostly male Surf Scoters) were sighted along the Labrador coast in 1998 and 1999 (S. Gilliland, pers. comm.).

Developmental photographic aerial surveys of moulting (primarily male) Black Scoters have been ongoing since 2006 in the James Bay area. During the 2006, 2009 and 2012 surveys, a total of 88 460, 106 600 and 125 369 Black Scoters, respectively, were observed in the core survey area in western James Bay (Badzinski et al. 2012). A reconnaissance survey conducted during July 2009 documented relatively few (4 331) Black Scoters using eastern Hudson Bay (south of Belcher Islands) and eastern James Bay (Cotter 2009). Recent satellite telemetry data suggests that in addition to eastern Hudson Bay and both sides of James Bay, Black Scoters also congregate to moult off the north coast of Ontario along the western Hudson Bay coastline (SDJV 2012).

In 2013, reconnaissance surveys employing visual estimates conducted during late July and early August documented about 45 000 Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters moulting in eastern James Bay in an area around Charlton Island and along the Quebec coastline. Approximately 40 000 Surf, White-winged and Black Scoters also were observed in an area around the Belcher Islands and along the eastern Hudson Bay coastline up to and including Lac Guillaume-Delisle in Quebec. Also, about 110 000 scoters (predominately Black Scoter) were observed in western Hudson Bay scattered along the coastline as far north as Churchill, Manitoba with the majority (90 000) occurring between the Ontario/Manitoba border and Nelson River inlet (S. Badzinski, pers. obs.). Consequently, a new reconnaissance survey covering the full known extent of moulting birds was conducted in late July and early August 2013 to determine numbers and confirm distribution.

Surveys in September and October 2006 indicated that the St. Lawrence Estuary was an important staging area for Surf Scoters in fall, since nearly 80 000 birds were counted there (J.-P. Savard, CWS, pers. comm.).

Recently, many efforts were made by CWS to mark scoters with satellite transmitters, as part of the larger Atlantic and Great Lakes Sea Duck Migration Study). In 2010, 19 White-winged and 48 Black Scoters were marked with satellite transmitters in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Chaleur Bay. Movements of marked birds are available for White-winged Scoters and Black Scoters. In 2012, an additional 17 White-winged Scoters and 26 Surf Scoters were marked in the St. Lawrence Estuary. To increase the sample size for Eastern Surf Scoters, 53 more satellite transmitters were implanted in October 2013 in the St. Lawrence Estuary. All these marked birds should provide valuable information on seasonal connectivity, timing and direction of movements, and site fidelity to wintering, breeding and moult sites.

Western Canada

The traditional survey area of the WBPHS in Western Canada (Figure 6) covers a large part of the breeding area of White-winged Scoters and a substantial portion of the Surf Scoter range. The three species of scoter are not differentiated during these surveys, however, as it is difficult to distinguish among them from fixed-wing aircraft. Based on the extent of known breeding distributions, scoter populations in the Canadian Prairies should be White-winged Scoters only, while populations in Western Boreal Canada include White-winged and Surf Scoters. All three species are present in Alaska. However, these data should be interpreted with caution, as the surveys are not well designed for estimating scoter numbers (Savard et al. 1998). There is no data available for Scoters in these areas in 2013.

Although found at very low densities on the Canadian Prairies, scoter numbers have declined over the long term based on the results of the WBPHS (Figure 23). Surveys in 2012 indicated an estimated 1.06 million individuals in the entire survey area, which is a decrease of 29% from 2011 (Figure 23).

A more detailed examination of trends in various strata showed intriguing results. Alisauskas et al. (2004) showed that, contrary to the overall declining trend, scoters increased over the previous decade in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan but continued to decline in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Their research, making use of reverse-time capture histories of White-winged Scoters at Redberry Lake, Saskatchewan, shows the long-term decline in the local population has now been arrested. Interestingly, this occurred as a result of increased recruitment through the immigration of adult females (Alisauskas et al. 2004).

Large concentrations of Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters are found in coastal British Columbia, in habitats that also support shellfish aquaculture, an industry that has the potential to expand dramatically. Simon Fraser University and CWS have completed a study of the interactions between scoters and the shellfish industry, evaluating potential effects on scoter population sustainability at local and regional scales (S. Boyd and D. Esler, pers. comm.). The findings suggest that, at current levels of activity, the overall effect of the industry in one important area for both shellfish and scoters is sustainable (Baynes Sound). The project has resulted in the publication of several papers and two master’s theses.

In response to the apparent decline in scoter numbers, reductions were made in 1993 to the bag limits for scoters in the U.S. and Canada. The harvest of all three scoter species in Canada and the U.S. has declined considerably since the 1970s (Tables 9, 10, 11), although harvest levels of Surf and Black Scoters in the Atlantic Flyway in 2011 again appeared to be near historic levels. In Canada, the harvest is estimated at a few thousand birds of each of the three species.

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Barrow’s Goldeneye

Eastern Population

In 2000, the small eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) was assessed by COSEWIC as being of Special Concern. Because of the potential threat to the species, most Barrow’s Goldeneye wintering and staging areas in Canada have been closed to hunting. However, because the Barrow’s Goldeneye is an arboreal species, forestry operations and introduction of fish on fishless lakes on its breeding grounds are more likely to be threats (Robert et al. 2008).

The main breeding area of the eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneye consists of the small fishless lakes of the high plateaus north of the St. Lawrence River from the Saguenay River east to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec (Robert et al. 2000; Robert et al. 2008). In fact, high numbers of pairs and lone males detected in aerial and ground surveys indicate that this area is probably the core breeding area for the eastern population of the Barrow’s Goldeneye (Robert et al. 2000).

In eastern North America, the only known moulting sites for adult male Barrow’s Goldeneyes are located in the coastal waters of Hudson, Ungava and Frobisher (Baffin Island) bays, and in a few coastal inlets of northern Labrador (Robert et al. 1999; Robert et al. 2002). Two moulting areas (Tasiujaq and Tuttutuuq River, Ungava Bay) were identified while tracking males with satellite telemetry in July 2000. At least 200 goldeneyes (mostly Barrow’s) were at the first location, while at least 3000 goldeneyes (mostly Common) were in the latter area (M. Robert, pers. comm.). Barrow’s Goldeneye spent up to four months in the moulting locations, highlighting the importance of these areas in the annual cycle (Robert et al. 2002).

During the 2009 breeding season, five female Barrow’s Goldeneyes were implanted with satellite transmitters in order to locate their moulting sites. Two females returned to moult in 2010 at the same location as in 2009 (one on a lake 100 km south of Ungava Bay and one in an inlet of Ungava Bay), and one female that moulted on a small lake near James Bay in 2009 apparently moulted in the St. Lawrence River in 2010 (Savard and Robert 2013). Movements of implanted females can be viewed seaduckjv.org/atlantic_migration_study.html). In 2010, 19 White-winged and 48 Black Scoters were marked with satellite transmitters in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Chaleur Bay. Movements of marked birds are available at online.

Results of Christmas bird counts from Tadoussac suggest a slight increase in Barrow’s Goldeneye numbers in the last decade (Savard 2008).

Western Population

The Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey of the British Columbia Central Interior Plateau has tracked the western population of Barrow’s Goldeneye since 2006. CWS analyses estimated the presence of 22 848 individuals in the Central Interior Plateau in 2013, 5% more than in 2012. Some data are available for this population from the breeding waterfowl surveys of the southern Yukon (Figure 24), where there is no discernible trend in the population over the past 5, 10, 15 or 21 years.

From 2006 to 2011, W.S. Boyd (Environment Canada, Science and Technology Branch) and D. Esler (Simon Fraser University – Centre for Wildlife Ecology) have satellite-tagged all age and sex classes of Barrow’s Goldeneye at a study site in the interior of B.C. (Riske Creek). All males marked in May 2006, 2007 and 2008 migrated north to northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories to moult, and many are showing high site-fidelity to both moulting and wintering sites, and an especially strong connection with a moulting/staging site at Cardinal Lake in Alberta. Some hatch-year birds marked in August 2011 are still being tracked. Maps showing movement and location data for all marked birds are available online. These maps contain data only to August 2011; they will be updated in the near future. The satellite data will be used to determine migration routes, site fidelity and affiliations between breeding, moulting, staging and wintering sites. The data will also be used to further our understanding of the population structure for Pacific Barrow’s Goldeneye.

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Other Sea Ducks

Information on other sea duck species from the WBPHS in Western Canada and the Eastern Waterfowl Survey is presented in Table 3 and Figure 22, respectively. Information on Bufflehead and other diving and sea ducks from the roadside surveys in the Yukon is presented in Figure 24.

The WBPHS in Western Canada shows significant increases in numbers of Goldeneyes and Buffleheads over the long term (Table 3). Technical issues with some of the survey aircrafts resulted in lack of data for mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks in 2013, so trends for the entire survey area and some regions could not be calculated.

For the period 1990–2013, the Eastern Waterfowl Survey showed an increasing trend for Hooded Merganser. Population levels for Bufflehead, Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser have been variable. Surf Scoter and Common Goldeneye populations have shown relatively stable trends (Figure 22).

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Population Status of Geese

Snow Goose

Greater Snow Goose

Greater Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens atlanticus) breed in the eastern Arctic around northern Foxe Basin, northern Baffin, Bylot, Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere islands, and northern Greenland. They winter along the mid-Atlantic coast from New Jersey to North Carolina. During migration, the entire population stages in southern Quebec in the marshes and agricultural lands.

The growth of the Greater Snow Goose population from a few thousand birds in the 1930s to over 500 000 in spring in the mid-1990s has been well documented (Reed et al. 1998a). Special conservation measures were implemented in 1999 to slow the rapid growth rate of the population of the Greater Snow Goose.

Aerial surveys of the spring staging area in the St. Lawrence River Valley in southern Quebec have been conducted annually since 1965. The survey covers a large territory extending from Lac Champlain (south) to Lac St-Jean (north), and from eastern Ontario (west) to the Chaleur Bay (east). Five aircraft are used simultaneously to ensure complete coverage during a one-day survey. In 2013, the survey was carried out on April 28. The size of the 2013 spring population during staging in southern Quebec was estimated at 921 000 (CI 63 000) geese, approximately 10% less than the previous year’s estimate (1 005 000; Figure 25; Lefebvre 2013). Estimates have been calculated using a revised sampling methodology since 2008.

In Canada, the 2012 fall goose harvest was estimated at 66 858 (Table 12), lower than the 2010 harvest (98 980) and below the 5-year average (77 062). In the U.S., the harvest was estimated at about 41 251 birds, which was slightly higher than last year’s estimate.

An estimated 22 461 ± 3260 birds were harvested during the special conservation measures in spring 2013 in Quebec (Smith and Gendron 2013a). The numbers harvested were below the 2012 estimate (35 738; Figure 26). A source of bias in the spring harvest estimation approach was detected and work is being done to correct estimates in the future. Accounting for this bias, the 2012 harvest is estimated at 30 702 ± 3413 (estimates from other years have not been corrected such that the 2012 estimate cannot be directly compared to those).

A special conservation season was implemented in southern Ontario in 2012. In 2013, an estimated 1397 ± 828 geese were harvested compared to 256 geese in 2012 (Smith and Gendron 2013b). Accounting for the bias referred to above, the 2012 harvest is estimated at 1635 ± 828.

In 2009, special conservation measures for Greater Snow Geese were put in place in several U.S. states of the Atlantic Flyway. In spring 2013, the estimated retrieved flyway harvest of Greater Snow Geese was 55 903 birds with an additional 2 559 birds shot and lost (Snow Goose, Brant and Swan Committee of the Atlantic Flyway Council, 2013).

A detailed study of the reproductive ecology of Greater Snow Geese at the Bylot Island breeding colony in Nunavut has been conducted since 1988. Bylot Island is located off the northern end of Baffin Island in the eastern High Arctic; it harbours the largest breeding colony of Greater Snow Geese on its southwest plain. More information about this research project is available online.

Lesser Snow Goose

Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) nest in colonies in coastal and inland areas of the Canadian Arctic. These colonies can be grouped according to three regions: the eastern Arctic (Southampton and Baffin islands, and the western and southern shores of Hudson Bay), the central Arctic (mainland from Coppermine in the west to Gjoa Haven in the east, and western Victoria Island), and the western Arctic (Banks Island, and the Anderson and Mackenzie River deltas).

Breeding ground surveys have shown substantial growth of Lesser Snow Goose populations at several colonies and the establishment of new colonies in recent years (Batt 1997). The CWS is coordinating a series of photographic inventories of major Lesser Snow Goose nesting colonies, and these results are reported below.

The increasing number of Lesser Snow Geese in the eastern and central Arctic is also indexed by surveys on wintering areas throughout the late 1990s. It should be noted that these geese are also referred to as mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese. Mid-winter counts increased from 0.78 million geese in 1970 to nearly 3.0 million in 1998 (Kruse 2007). The 2012 mid-winter count was about 4.02 million geese, 27% more than in 2011, and a record high for the second year in a row (Figure 27; USFWS 2013). These counts include some Ross’s Geese and probably a small proportion of Lesser Snow Geese originating from western Arctic colonies. However, mid-winter counts underestimate actual population levels, and probably increasingly so, as populations have grown (Leafloor et al. 2012).

Recently, the population size of Lesser Snow Geese has been estimated using band recovery data and harvest estimates (Alisauskas et al. 2009; Alisauskas et al. 2011, 2012). Traditional survey approaches provide only indices of population size, but the estimates derived from harvest and banding data suggest numbers that are considerably higher than previously thought. The mid-continent population of Lesser Snow Geese likely exceeded 15 million adult birds in 2010, and some estimates suggest that the population could be even larger than that (Alisauskas et al. 2011, 2012). Despite recent efforts to reduce numbers of mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese, the population continues to grow (Leafloor et al. 2012).

Eastern Arctic Colonies

Baffin Island and Southampton Island

Between 2003 and 2005, photographic inventories of the largest Lesser Snow Goose nesting colonies in the eastern Arctic were conducted, for comparison to earlier counts in the early 1970s and 1997. When the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak (on Baffin Island) and Southampton Island were first surveyed in 1973, there were only 446 600 and 155 800 nesting birds, respectively (Kerbes 1975), and the area where nests were found was much smaller. By 1997, those colonies had grown to 1.7 and 0.7 million nesting birds, respectively (Figure 28). Estimates of nesting Snow Geese on Southampton Island in 2004 suggested numbers similar to 1997, whereas those estimated on Baffin Island in 2005 indicated that the population may have declined slightly (Figure 28). The most recent estimates of nesting birds from photographic surveys on Southampton Island indicate that Lesser Snow Goose numbers have in fact continued to grow and approached 1 million nesting birds in 2008 (K.M. Meeres, CWS Saskatoon, unpubl. data). A photographic survey of Baffin Island was conducted in 2011, but results are not yet available. Numbers of goslings on Baffin Island in August 2013 were lower than those seen in 2012, and brood flocks were largely absent, suggesting that nesting effort of Lesser Snow Geese in 2013 was poor compared to last year (J.O. Leafloor, CWS Winnipeg, pers. obs.). By contrast, large numbers of goslings and widespread brood flocks of Snow Geese were observed on Southampton Island in 2013 (J. Ingram, CWS Winnipeg, pers. obs.).

West Hudson Bay

At West Hudson Bay, Snow Goose numbers declined by about half between 1985 and 1997, when they numbered just over 200 000 geese (Figure 28). Estimates from photo surveys conducted in 2003 suggest that the nesting population increased slightly between 1997 and 2003, but that most of the increase occurred north of the traditional nesting colony centred at the McConnell River and especially to the north of Arviat, Nunavut. The most recent photographic estimates of nesting geese in this region suggest that numbers of Lesser Snow Geese remained stable at about 250 000 birds in 2008 (K.M. Meeres, unpubl. data).

Hudson Bay Lowlands (Akimiski Island, Cape Henrietta Maria and La Pérouse Bay)

In the Hudson Bay lowlands, surveys conducted between 1996 and 2003 showed the number of nesting pairs to be declining from the peak in 1997, when 430 000 birds were estimated nesting in the area between La Pérouse Bay, Manitoba, and Cape Henrietta Maria, Ontario (K. Ross and K. Abraham, pers. comm.). The 2006 survey of the La Pérouse Bay colony yielded 41 800 breeding pairs, virtually the same number as in 1997 (i.e., 41 700 pairs); the two small colonies near Thompson Point held 1700 and 5400 pairs, respectively (K. Abraham, R. Rockwell and K. Ross, pers. comm.) A new spatial analysis of helicopter surveys conducted on the Cape Henrietta Maria colony suggest a recent decline in the number of breeding birds from an average for the 1997 to 2007 period (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007) of 332 400 to lows of 230 556 and 202 140 in 2007 and 2012, respectively. There was an extreme low number of nesting birds observed in 2009, but a late spring characterized by spring flooding prevented many birds from attempting to nest. In 2009, only 17 944 breeding birds were estimated. With the exception of 2009, these data represent a considerable increase from 1979, when the nesting population was estimated at 55 000 nesting pairs (P. Anghern, unpubl. report). A reconnaissance survey of the former Shell Brook colony area in late July 2013 revealed few geese, but a similar survey of the West Pen Island colony yielded a photographic tally of 9035 adults. This is a 45% decline since 1997 when 16 600 breeding geese were estimated (Kerbes 1994).

Timing of the spring thaw was later in 2013 than in 2012 and more comparable to the long-term average in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. The thaw was relatively later in the western Hudson Bay Lowlands than in the eastern Hudson Bay Lowlands. In James Bay, the small Akimiski Island colony consistently had an estimated 900 breeding pairs between 1998 and 2000, increasing to about 1500 pairs in 2001 and remaining about the same in 2003 (K. Abraham and Rod Brook, pers. comm.). Timing of nest initiation by Lesser Snow Geese on Akimiski Island appeared to be similar to the long-term average in 2013. Clutch size during late incubation searches was near average. Age ratio at banding was 1.6 goslings per adult, indicating a good production year. At Cape Henrietta Maria, the timing of spring thaw was similar to the long-term average. The area occupied by the colony appeared to be similar to the last decade (K. Abraham, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, pers. comm.) and age ratio during mid-brood rearing was 1.2 (±0.13). Age ratio in mid brood rearing at the Pen Island colony was 1.4 (±0.08). Nesting studies of Lesser Snow Geese at La Pérouse Bay and the Cape Churchill region indicated one of the earlier snow melts recorded in the 45 years of the project. Despite this early phenology, which affected plants, Lesser Snow Geese were slightly later than in 2012 and were about 4 days earlier than the long-term average. The colony has increased numerically and has expanded geographically with nesting moving at least 5 km further inland along much of the coast between the White Whale and Broad Rivers. In 2013, 6 064 Snow Geese were banded, including 3204 juveniles and 2 860 adults, 539 of which were recaptures. The gosling to adult ratio of 1.12 in late brood rearing indicated high reproductive success. (R. Rockwell, American Museum of Natural History, New York, pers. comm.).

Central Arctic Colonies

The central Arctic breeding population, concentrated in the Queen Maud Gulf, grew more slowly than the eastern population before the 1980s, but now appears to be increasing rapidly. Part of the rapid growth may be due to the immigration of eastern Arctic birds. In 1976, there were 30 colonies with nearly 56 000 nesting Lesser Snow Geese. By 1988, the number of colonies had increased to 57, with about 280 000 nesting Lesser Snow Geese (Kerbes 1996). Information from a photographic inventory conducted in 1998 indicated that the Snow Goose population was in excess of 700 000, scattered over 80 colonies (R. Kerbes, unpubl. data). Concurrent with special conservation measures instituted to reduce the mid-continent population of snow geese, the number of breeding Snow Geese in the central Arctic estimated from aerial photography increased from 657 000 in 1998 to 1 666 000 by 2006 (K. Meeres, CWS, unpubl. data). Alisauskas et al. (2011) calculated that this was equivalent to a growth rate of 12.3% per year.

Lesser Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese nesting timing and the production of young at Karrak are strongly linked to the timing of lake ice breakup. Although timing of nesting by both species has not yet been calculated for 2013, these Dates of Ice Breakup and Dates of First Gosling Seen in each year provide a general impression of conditions in the central Canadian Arctic, relative to long-term means. After 5 years of later-than-average Ice Breakup, Ice Breakup in 2013 was 9 days earlier than average, and 6 days earlier than in 2011. As well, the date that the first goslings were observed in 2012 was 2 days earlier than average and 1 day earlier than in 2011. This suggests that after several years in a row of later-than-average nesting (2007–2011), production of goslings in 2013, like 2012, is expected to be higher than average for geese from the Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary.

Population estimates of nesting Ross’s Geese and Lesser Snow Geese are not yet available for 2013. Nevertheless, population growth over the longer term seems to have slowed and stabilized at about 700 000 nesting Ross’s Geese, but had become a population decline from 2006–2008 for Lesser Snow Geese at Karrak Lake (Figure 29). For example, the number of light geese that nested on Karrak Lake in 2012 was about 1.28 million, of which 766 000 were Ross’s Geese, but only 513 000 were Lesser Snow Geese. Much of the decline in nesting Snow Geese from 630 000 in 2006 to 346 000 in 2008 was related to the very late nesting conditions of 2007–2008, inclusive, which resulted in fewer Snow Geese attempting to nest. Since then, the number of nesting Snow Geese has recovered somewhat and continues to do so, but Ross’s Geese now outnumber Snow Geese nesting at Karrak Lake.

Western Arctic Colonies

More than 95% of Lesser Snow Geese in the western Canadian Arctic nest on Banks Island. This population increased substantially between the 1960s and 2002. The total nesting population increased, growing from around 105 000 birds in 1960 to 165 000 in 1976, and exceeding 479 000 in 1995 (Kerbes et al. 1999a). Photographic inventories of the colony indicate that the number of nesting birds on Banks Island has remained high, with 570 000 nesting birds in 2002, 427 000 birds in 2009, and a preliminary estimate of 429 000 birds in 2013 (CWS, unpubl. data). Some localized habitat damage has occurred on Banks Island due to foraging activities from Snow Geese (Hines et al. 2010). The remaining western Arctic Snow Geese nest mostly at small colonies in the Anderson River and Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, as well as in Alaska. Numbers of nesting geese at Kendall Island have fluctuated between <500 and several thousand nesters, with no obvious long-term trend (Wiebe Robertson and Hines 2006; CWS, unpubl. data). Nesting numbers at Anderson River have declined from >8000 birds in the early 1980s to 2800 birds or less in recent years (Wiebe Robertson and Hines 2006; CWS, unpubl. data).

Lesser Snow Geese nesting on Wrangel Island, Russia, are also of great interest to Canada, because this population migrates through western Canada in fall and spring, and more than half of the population winters on the Fraser Delta (B.C.) and the nearby Skagit Delta (Washington). The present colony of Lesser Snow Geese on Wrangel Island is all that remains of several colonies that existed in Siberia a century ago. Russian biologists monitoring the population have documented a decline from 120 000 nesting birds in 1970 (total population of 150 000 geese) to fewer than half that number in the 1990s (total population of 60 000–70 000 geese; Kerbes et al. 1999a). The total population has increased in recent years to 150 000–160 000 birds (S. Boyd, pers. comm.). No estimates are available from Russia on the size of the Wrangel Island spring 2013 breeding population.

The Fraser-Skagit winter population in British Columbia has roughly doubled since the early 1990s, increasing to ca. 100 000 birds in 2006–2007, the highest abundance ever recorded. Increased harvest rates combined with poor breeding years caused the population to decline to ca. 75 000 birds in 2009–2010 and ca. 65 000 in 2010–2011. The 2012–2013 wintering population was estimated at 69 964 birds, with 20.6% young (Sean Boyd, pers. comm.). Once the Fraser-Skagit winter population increased above ca. 60 000 birds in the early 2000s, increased conflicts (socio-economic) occurred with local farms, schools and the Vancouver International Airport on the Fraser Delta, and increased grubbing rates resulted in a severe reduction in bulrush biomass. Data from a long-term monitoring program suggest that large parts of the tidal marsh will move to a state of “functional extinction” if the number of geese remains high (S. Boyd, pers. comm.). To help alleviate the above concerns, responsible management agencies in British Columbia and Washington implemented amendments to hunting regulations in 2003–2004 and again in 2007–2008 to reduce the number of geese. This was followed by the implementation of a harvest strategy to maintain the Fraser-Skagit winter population within 50 000–70 000 total geese so that the marsh habitat remains at a healthy, sustainable level and socio-economic concerns are minimized. The primary goal of the harvest strategy is to make hunting regulations, and hence harvest rates, responsive to goose abundance. For a variety of reasons, the large majority of this harvest will occur on the Skagit Delta in Washington State.

Harvest of Lesser Snow Geese

In the United States, Lesser Snow Geese are harvested in all four flyways, but mostly in the Mississippi and Central flyways. In 2011, the total U.S. harvest estimate was 343 803 geese, a decrease of 3% compared to 2011 (Table 13). In Canada, the estimated harvest was 118 832 birds in 2012, an increase of 4% compared to 2011.

Since 1990, CWS Pacific and Yukon Region has conducted a special annual harvest survey of Lesser Snow Geese from the Wrangel Island population. Prior to 2003, harvest estimates varied from a low of 623 in 1990 to a high of 1989 in 2003 (A. Breault, unpubl. data; Figure 30). The 2012–2013 harvest was estimated at 3317 birds, 17% less than the 3990 birds harvested in 2011–2012. Harvest figures include a +20% adjustment for crippling loss (A. Breault, pers. comm.).

An estimated 8 613 ± 4 054 birds were harvested during the special conservation measures in spring 2013 in Saskatchewan (there is no harvest survey in Manitoba and Nunavut, because of very low harvest and very few non-Aboriginal hunters, respectively; Smith and Gendron 2013c). Numbers harvested were 26% lower than the 2012 estimate (11 632 ± 3 521). A source of bias in the spring harvest estimation approach was detected, and work is being done to correct estimates in the future. Accounting for this bias, the 2013 Saskatchewan harvest is estimated at 11 721 ± 4 054 (estimates from other years have not been corrected, such that the 2012 estimate cannot be directly compared to those).

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Management of Overabundant Geese

Conservation Issue

Most Snow and Ross’s Geese populations are well above their population objectives (NAWMP 2012). This becomes an important conservation issue when the rapid growth and increasing abundance affect the habitats on which they, and other species, depend. This relatively new issue was first highlighted over 15 years ago, through comprehensive assessments of the environmental effects of the rapidly growing populations of mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese and Greater Snow Geese. The analyses completed by Canadian and American experts are contained in the reports entitled Arctic Ecosystems in Peril – Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group (Batt 1997) and The Greater Snow Goose – Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group (Batt 1998).

These working groups concluded that the increase in Snow Geese populations was primarily human-induced. Changing farming practices began to supply a reliable, highly nutritious food source for migrating and wintering geese. Combined with the safety found in refuges, the improved nutritional status led to increased survival and higher reproductive rates for Snow Geese. These populations have become so large that they are affecting the plant communities at staging areas and breeding grounds on which they and other species rely. Grazing and grubbing by geese not only permanently removes vegetation, but also changes soil salinity, nitrogen dynamics and moisture levels. The result is the alteration or elimination of the plant communities. Although the Arctic is vast, the areas that support migrating and breeding geese and other companion species are limited in extent, and some areas are likely to become inhospitable for decades. Increasing crop damage is another undesirable consequence of the growing goose populations.

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Management Response

Initial management efforts focused on mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese and Greater Snow Geese, the populations where there was strong evidence for detrimental effects on habitats. Canada, the United States and Mexico agreed that the habitat damage being caused was a significant conservation issue, and that the populations were overabundant to the detriment of the arctic and sub-arctic ecosystems. Following that declaration, several concurrent management measures were begun to curtail the rapid population growth and reduce population size to a level consistent with the carrying capacity of the habitat. Population models showed that of all the potential management techniques, the most successful approach to control population growth would be to reduce survival rates for adult geese.

Therefore, beginning in 1999, Canada amended the Migratory Birds Regulations and created new tools that could be invoked to help manage overabundant species. These included special conditions under which hunters were encouraged to increase their take for conservation reasons and, in some cases and subject to specific controls, to use exceptional methods and equipment such as electronic calls and bait. The special conservation measures for Snow Geese were implemented in 1999 in selected areas of Quebec and Manitoba, were expanded in 2001 to Saskatchewan and Nunavut, and in 2012 into southeastern Ontario. The dates and locations of application of these special conservation measures were determined in consultation with the provincial governments, other organizations and local communities.

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Effectiveness of Special Measures

Evaluations showed that success of the special conservation measures to date has been mixed. In the case of Greater Snow Geese, the special conservation measures were successful in reducing the annual survival rate for adults from about 83% to about 72.5% (Calvert and Gauthier 2005). The growth of the population was stopped, but the special measures have not succeeded in reducing the size of the population, which appears stabilized at about 1 million birds in spring (Lefebvre 2013). Models showed that without the special take by hunters in spring, the population would begin to grow rapidly once more (Gauthier and Reed 2007).

For mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese, the evaluation concluded that the population has continued to grow, although perhaps at a reduced rate (Leafloor et al. 2012). It also concluded that while the annual harvest increased as a result of the conservation measures, it failed to reduce the size of the population. It was apparent that measures invoked to date have not been successful and that other measures would be required if population control were deemed essential. The report recommended that special conservation measures be maintained and that additional measures to increase harvest be sought.

The evaluation report also suggested that the conditions for overabundance designation are being met by Ross’s Geese, and predicted that continued growth and expansion of Lesser Snow Geese populations was especially likely in the central and western Arctic of Canada (Leafloor et al. 2012). The CWS is now considering designating the Lesser Snow Geese nesting in the western Arctic and Ross’s Geese as overabundant, as outlined in the following sections of this report.

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Notice of Intent to Consider Designation of Western Arctic Lesser Snow Geese as Overabundant

A notice of intent is hereby given that designating the western Arctic population of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) as overabundant is under consideration. Should CWS decide to proceed with the designation following the conclusion of the consultation process initiated in fall 2012, a proposal will be published in the December 2013 CWS Regulatory Report.

An overabundant population is one for which the rate of population growth has resulted in, or will result in, a population whose abundance directly threatens the conservation of migratory birds (themselves or others) or their habitats, or is injurious to or threatens agricultural, environmental or other similar interests.

Experience has shown that serious habitat loss from the destructive foraging activities of Lesser Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese occurred in parallel with very rapid population growth in the central and eastern Arctic (Batt 1997). Some localized habitat damage has already occurred on Banks Island from the foraging activities of western Arctic Snow Geese (Hines et al. 2010). If the western Arctic population continues to increase at the present rate, the negative impacts to habitat and other species are predicted to expand.

The western Arctic population breeds primarily on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, with smaller breeding colonies on the mainland of the Northwest Territories and Alaska. The population migrates mainly through Alberta and western Saskatchewan in spring and autumn. The majority of birds winter in the Pacific Flyway, mostly in California where they mix with the Wrangel Island population of Lesser Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese. Some birds also winter in the western Central Flyway, where they mix with mid-continent Snow Geese.

Western Arctic Snow Geese are already well above the spring population objective of 200 000 birds (NAWMP 2012). Photographic surveys of the nesting colonies indicate that the number of nesting birds has grown from about 171 000 adults in 1976 to about 500 000 adults in recent years (Kerbes et al. 1999b; Hines et al. 2010; CWS, unpubl. data). The fall estimate of western Arctic/Wrangel Island Snow Geese in the Pacific Flyway was over 1 million birds in 2011; this has increased an average of 6% per year from 2003 to present (USFWS 2013). Increases also have been observed in the western Central Flyway population of Snow Geese (USFWS 2013).

Based on band return data, adults from the western Arctic population have an 85% chance of surviving from one year to the next (CWS, unpubl. data). This survival rate is high and similar to estimates of other increasing white goose populations. Recent recovery rates for banded adult birds were only 2–3%, suggesting that non-hunting mortality is currently more important than hunting mortality (CWS, unpubl. data). Increased survival is thought to be mainly due to increased agricultural food supplies, increased use of refuges during migration and winter, and reduced harvest rates by hunters (Abraham et al. 1996; Abraham and Jefferies 1997).

The western Arctic population is showing a pattern of rapid population growth similar to that which has been observed in other populations of Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese. For this reason, it is important to consider implementation of special conservation measures, such as spring harvest, before the western Arctic population reaches a level that cannot be controlled through increased harvest by hunters. Similar efforts to stabilize Greater Snow Goose numbers in eastern North America were successful because the population was still small enough that it could be controlled through increased harvest (Reed and Calvert 2007). Based on experience with the mid-continent population of Lesser Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese, it is likely easier to recover goose populations that reach low levels than to reduce them after they experience runaway growth (Leafloor et al. 2012). It may still be possible to stabilize the western Arctic population if liberalized harvest measures are implemented soon. Designation of the western Arctic population as overabundant would provide tools to liberalize harvest under special conservation measures such as spring harvest, use of electronic calls or baiting.

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Notice of Intent to Consider Designation of Ross’s Geese as Overabundant

A notice of intent is hereby given that designating the Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii) as overabundant is under consideration. Should CWS decide to proceed with the designation following the conclusion of the consultation process initiated in fall 2012, a proposal will be published in the December 2013 CWS Regulatory Report.

An overabundant population is one for which the rate of population growth has resulted in, or will result in, a population whose abundance directly threatens the conservation of migratory birds (themselves or others) or their habitats, or is injurious to or threatens agricultural, environmental or other similar interests.

Following publication of the Ecosystems in Peril report (Batt 1997), unprecedented management actions were initiated in 1999 to reduce damage caused to arctic and subarctic ecosystems by the foraging activities of increasing numbers of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) and Ross’s geese (Chen rossii; Batt 1997; Moser 2001). Most of these actions were aimed at reducing survival of adult geese through increased harvest by hunters throughout the range of the mid-continent population, which was thought to be the most efficient means of reducing population size (Rockwell et al. 1997). Hunting regulations were liberalized during regular seasons, traditional hunting restrictions (e.g., prohibition on use of electronic calls, requirement for plugged shotguns, bag and possession limits) were relaxed or removed to promote increased harvest, and habitat management regimes on some refuges were altered to increase exposure of the birds to hunting outside of refuge areas. Additional amendments to the migratory bird regulations in Canada and the United States were made to allow conservation harvests of such overabundant species outside of hunting seasons.

Though most attention was focused on overabundance of Lesser Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese were designated as overabundant in the United States in 1999, and have been included in regulations allowing spring conservation harvests there ever since. In Canada, a court decision in 1999 determined that overabundance regulations could not be applied to Ross’s Geese because it had not been demonstrated that they were contributing to the habitat damage.

It is now clear that Ross’s Geese contribute to habitat degradation on nesting and staging areas where they occur in large numbers (Alisauskas et al. 2006b; Abraham et al. 2012). Like Lesser Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese grub during nest building and during spring staging, when a large portion of their diet is made up of the roots and rhizomes of sedges and grasses (Ryder and Alisauskas 1995). Alisauskas et al. (2006b) found that vegetative cover was removed in areas occupied by nesting Ross’s Geese, resulting in exposure of mineral substrate and peat. This led to reduced vegetative species richness that worsened over time, particularly in low-lying habitats preferred by Ross’s Geese for nesting. Reduced graminoid abundance caused by foraging of geese has also led to dramatic declines in small mammal abundance around dense nesting colonies (Samelius and Alisauskas 2009). Didiuk et al. (2001) suggested that use by Ross’s Geese of nesting areas previously degraded by Lesser Snow Geese (e.g., on the west coast of Hudson Bay) may slow recovery of those areas due to the ongoing effects of foraging and nest building. The smaller bill morphology of Ross’s Geese may allow them to crop vegetation more closely to the ground than do Lesser Snow Geese, adding to the intensity of grazing.

Ross’s Geese are closely related to Lesser Snow Geese, and co-occur with the latter species throughout the year; their behavioural and morphological similarity has led to harvest management of the two species in aggregate since 1978 (Moser and Duncan 2001). In the mid-1960s, most Ross’s Geese (>90%) nested in the central Arctic of Canada, and wintered in the Central Valley of California (Melinchuk and Ryder 1980). Though comprehensive estimates of population size were not available until recently, photographic surveys of known nesting areas indicated fewer than 100 000 nesting Ross’s Geese in the mid-1960s (Kerbes 1994). The continental population objective for Ross’s Geese has been 100 000 birds since the inception of NAWMP in 1986. By the mid-2000s, Ross’s Geese had expanded their range eastward on both nesting and wintering areas (Alisauskas et al. 2006a), and the population was estimated to number between 1.5–2.5 million adult birds (Alisauskas et al. 2009, 2011, 2012), despite efforts to stop the growth of the population through increased harvest by hunters.

Alisauskas et al. (2006a) analyzed hunter recoveries of Ross’s Geese captured and marked in the Queen Maud Gulf region of the central Canadian Arctic, and found that survival of adults had declined during the period 1994–2000, reaching a low of approximately 0.80, apparently in response to concurrent increases in harvest. The authors noted, however, that during this same time period, the Ross’s Goose population at one of the largest known breeding colonies in the Queen Maud Gulf region had shown sustained growth, suggesting that an adult survival rate of 0.80 was unlikely to have negative consequence for continental Ross’s Goose populations. Since 2001 (the last year that Alisauskas et al. [2006a] considered), continental harvest of adult Ross’s Geese has apparently stabilized, and harvest rates (the annual proportion of the adult population harvested by hunters) have declined to only about 2–3% (Alisauskas et al. 2009, 2012; Dufour et al. 2012). Annual survival of Ross’s Geese declined from 0.897 (95% CI = 0.789–0.953) to a low of 0.827 (95% CI = 0.801–0.850) during the period 1989–1997, then increased steadily from 1998 onward, reaching a high of 0.950 (95% CI = 0.899–0.976) in 2009. Notably, this reversal of the survival trajectory occurred in the face of some of the highest annual harvest levels estimated for adult Ross’s Geese since 1989 (Alisauskas et al. 2012).

Multiple lines of evidence indicate that Ross’s Goose populations have continued to grow, both in the central Arctic and at the continental level (Alisauskas et al. 2009, 2012). Collectively, these observations suggest that, like Snow Geese, increases in harvest of Ross’s Geese have been outpaced by concurrent increases in abundance, thereby diminishing the effects of harvest on adult survival (Dufour et al. 2012). In fact, Ross’s Goose numbers have continued to increase at a higher rate than have Lesser Snow Geese since the start of conservation actions in 1999, and continued growth of the Ross’s Goose population is predicted to occur (Alisauskas et al. 2006a; Alisauskas et al. 2012; Dufour et al. 2012). Thus, the environmental damage being caused, with its effects on other species and ecosystem structure and function, is expected to continue to increase.

Designation of Ross’s Geese as overabundant is therefore being considered by the CWS and would provide tools to liberalize harvest under special conservation measures such as spring harvest, use of electronic calls or baiting.

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Regulatory Proposal for 2013–2014

The special conservation measures to be implemented in spring 2014 are already made into law. They are posted on the CWS website, and are presented in Appendix A of this report.

The regulations proposed to be implemented in the fall hunting seasons of 2014 and the spring conservation measures in 2015 are under development, and will be presented in the December 2013 Regulatory Report.

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Ross’s Goose

About 95% of all Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii) nest in the Queen Maud Gulf area of the central Canadian Arctic. Increasing numbers are being found along the western coast of Hudson Bay, on Baffin, Southampton and Banks islands, at La Perouse Bay, Manitoba, and Cape Henrietta Maria, Ontario (Kerbes 1994; J. Leafloor, pers. comm.; K. Abraham, pers. comm.). Nesting colonies of Ross’s Geese are usually interspersed with those of Lesser Snow Geese, so it can be difficult to accurately evaluate the size of Ross’s Goose populations using traditional survey techniques. Ross’s Geese traditionally wintered mostly in California, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, but in the past two decades have expanded their range eastward in North America (Alisauskas et al. 2006a).

Ross’s Goose was considered a rare species in the early 1900s. When legislation was passed to prohibit hunting in 1931, the estimated population of Ross’s Geese was only 5000 to 6000 birds. By 1988, the breeding population had increased to more than 188 000 birds in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Kerbes 1994; Ryder and Alisauskas 1995) and to about 982 000 in 1998 (Alisauskas et al. 1998). Helicopter surveys on Baffin Island, in conjunction with the banding in August, suggested that there were at least 20 000 Ross’s Geese present by 2009 (Alisauskas et al. 2012). A new colony of nesting Ross’s Geese became established near the McConnell River, Nunavut, in the early 1990s, and it was estimated at more than 70 000 birds in 2003. The colony continued to increase and was estimated at about 90 000 nesting birds in 2005 (J. Caswell, pers. comm.). Information gathered while banding Lesser Snow Geese near Cape Henrietta Maria, Ontario, indicated that the Ross’s Goose population there may now be as large as 2250 pairs (Abraham 2002). The largest colony of Ross's Geese is found near Karrak Lake in the Queen Maud Gulf, where an estimated 479 400birds nested in 2001 (Alisauskas 2001).

A recent analysis by Alisauskas et al. (2006a) described changes in the geographic distribution of Ross’s Geese in winter. Over the past decade, the wintering populations and the harvest have shifted eastward, matching the eastward expansion of the breeding populations.

The most recent estimates available suggest that the Ross’s Goose population likely exceeds 1.5 million adult birds and is increasing at a faster rate than are mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese in recent years (Alisauskas et al. 2012).

An earlier spring in much of the central Arctic region of Canada likely resulted in improved production for Ross’s Geese over 2012. Average nesting conditions also appeared to exist in most of the eastern Arctic in 2013, where anecdotal evidence suggests that Ross’s Goose numbers continue to grow (J.O. Leafloor, CWS PNR, pers. comm.). Out of all goose species nesting on western Baffin Island, only Ross’s Geese appeared to have had good production in 2013, based on observations of brood flocks in August.

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Greater White-fronted Goose

There are three populations of Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons): mid-continent, Tule and Pacific. The Pacific and Tule White-fronted geese are the two subspecies of White-fronted geese that breed in Alaska and winter primarily in California. In Canada, the population is the mid-continent White-fronted Goose.

In the past, Greater White-fronted Goose surveys were conducted in early spring, but these counts were problematic when geese were too widely spread along their migration route to allow for good counts. As numbers of mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese increased in the important count areas, the surveys became even more problematic and were abandoned in 1992. However, until the early to mid-1980s, the surveys did a good job of tracking the trend in Greater White-fronted Goose numbers, indicating that the overall population grew from the late 1950s to the early 1980s (J. Hines, pers. comm.).

In 1992, a fall survey of the staging areas in Saskatchewan and Alberta was implemented with the objective of providing an annual index of the population size of mid-continent Greater White-fronted Geese. Because it is unlikely that significant numbers of geese are present outside the survey area in most years (based on historical migration and distribution data, as well as experimental surveys), this fall inventory accounts for a significant proportion of the population (Nieman et al. 2001). The survey was not completed in 2013 due to the U.S government shutdown (the USFWS provides aircraft and pilots). Results for fall 2012 indicated a total of 778 000 geese, which represented a 12% increase over 2011; the 3-year average was 724 000 geese, an increase of 9% (Figure 31; K. Warner, pers. comm.).

Most monitoring programs for mid-continent white-fronted geese suggest that the population has increased significantly in size over the past several decades. Midwinter survey counts increased approximately four-fold between 1969 and 2011 (Figure 31), and indices from regional breeding ground surveys in northern and central Alaska more than doubled from 1986–2012. Likewise, estimates of population size that are derived from harvest estimates and banding data (Lincoln 1930, Alisauskas et al. 2009) show an approximately four-fold increase from 1975 to 2011; the most recent estimates suggest a population size of about 3.5 million adults (Figure 32; R. Alisauskas, unpubl. data). By contrast, fall counts in the Canadian Prairies have been stable, or perhaps have declined slightly, between 1992 and 2013, but the reasons for this are unclear (Figure 32).

From 2002 through 2011, annual harvest rates of mid-continent adult White-fronted Geese averaged 4.4%, and appear to have declined markedly since the late 1970s, though they have been relatively stable since 1989. Adult harvest rates have exceeded 6% only 4 times since 1989 (in 1992, 1997, 1999 and 2004). Estimated harvests of White-fronted Geese in states of the Mississippi Flyway averaged about 110 000 birds per year from 2002-2011, and appear to have increased over time. Annual harvests averaged about 85 000 birds annually from 2002–2011 in the Central Flyway, and also showed a long-term increase. Combined U.S. harvests of mid-continent White-fronted Geese averaged approximately 67 000 birds per year in the 1970s but increased to about 195 000 birds annually from 2002–2011. Harvests in Canada averaged about 67 000 birds per year from 2002–2011. Almost all of the Canadian harvest occurs in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and though estimated harvests have been more erratic in recent years, there has been an increase in harvest in Canada (Figure 33), despite substantial declines in sales of migratory game bird hunting permits. Total mid-continent harvest has clearly increased over time also, averaging approximately 125 000 birds annually from 1975–1979, and 265 000 annually from 2002–2011.

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Canada Goose and Cackling Goose

Until recently, Branta canadensis geese breeding in Canada were recognized as a single species, despite debate around the validity of this taxonomic clustering (summarized in Dickson 2000). Over the years, many authors suggested that two species should be recognized: small-bodied birds with relatively short necks and bills, and larger-bodied birds with proportionately longer necks and bills (Mowbray et al. 2002). In 2003, after reviewing the genetic evidence, the American Ornithologists’ Union identified two species of geese from the one species previously referred to as B. canadensis (Banks et al. 2003). Birds of the large-bodied or B. canadensis group, consisting of seven subspecies, typically nest in inland and more southerly regions, while the four subspecies of the smaller Cackling Goose (B. hutchinsii) more typically breed in tundra habitats.

The many different races of Canada Geese (B. canadensis) and Cackling Geese (B. hutchinsii) that have part of their breeding range in Canada are grouped into 15 different management populations. The distribution of Canada Goose and Cackling Goose populations are shown in Figures 34a, 34b and 34c.

Table 15 presents overall harvest estimates for Canada and the United States. However, these numbers are composed of birds from more than one population. Because the surveys cannot differentiate among the different populations of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese, they are inadequate for estimating the harvest level of each population. Partitioning of the harvest requires comprehensive banding programs or analysis of molecular markers. Harvest of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese has been on the rise, with the continental harvest surpassing 3 million annually since 2001. The estimated Canada and Cackling Goose harvest in 2011 was 730 316 geese in Canada, whereas an estimated 2 185 054 of these geese were harvested in the U.S. (Table 15).

North Atlantic Population Canada Goose

Canada Geese belonging to the North Atlantic Population (NAP), which is thought to be primarily composed of the subspecies B. c. canadensis, breed in Labrador, insular Newfoundland and eastern Quebec, including Anticosti Island (Figure 34a). The breeding population is surveyed by the helicopter plots of the Eastern Waterfowl Survey. An expanded helicopter plot survey was initiated in 2001 when it became evident that neither the original Eastern Waterfowl Survey nor the fixed-wing transects carried out by the USFWS adequately covered the breeding range of this population. Efforts to integrate data from the two survey platforms are ongoing.

Stratum 2 of the Eastern Waterfowl Survey approximates the breeding range of the NAP. A method for integrating the results of the two survey platforms is currently under development in partnership with the USFWS; in the interim, the data from the helicopter plots only is presented in Figure 35. In 2012, the total of estimated indicated pairs was 43 177 (± 6293), which is above the average of the past decade (42 045; Figure 35).

Efforts to band geese breeding in southern Labrador were initiated in the summer of 2007. Banding operations in 2007 identified the presence of Canada Geese banded as juveniles in several northeastern U.S. states. As has been documented for other Canada Goose populations (see below), the presence of moulting, temperate-breeding migrant geese is a concern in terms of both the accuracy of breeding survey estimates and the potential effects on North Atlantic goose populations due to competition for resources.

The NAP banding programs continued in 2009 and 2011, and in 2012 were broadened in an attempt to band geese breeding on the island of Newfoundland as well as in Labrador. The insular Newfoundland effort did not prove to be cost effective and was suspended after 2012; however banding on the breeding grounds in Labrador continued in 2013.

The utility of banding NAP Canada Geese on the breeding grounds is currently under review by program partners to determine if delivery of this program is meeting management needs.

Atlantic Population Canada Goose

Atlantic Population (AP) Canada Geese (composed largely of B. c. interior) nest throughout northern Quebec, especially along the shores of Ungava Bay and eastern Hudson Bay. A recent review by Mallory et al. (2005) added locations on Baffin and Somerset islands, Nunavut, that are more northerly than the known breeding range. Eastward across Baffin Bay, Canada Geese breeding in western Greenland appears related to the AP birds, based on measures of morphology and genetic characteristics (Fox et al. 1996; Scribner et al. 2003). AP Canada Geese winter from New England to South Carolina, with the largest concentration occurring on the Delmarva Peninsula (Figure 34a).

A breeding ground survey has been conducted every year in northern Quebec since 1993 to estimate the number of breeding pairs on the Ungava Peninsula (Harvey and Rodrigue 2012). Estimates produced by this survey are not adjusted for visibility bias and thus represent an index to the population. This survey covers the three regions that were shown previously to include the highest densities of nesting geese: the region of inland tundra, the region of flat coastal tundra (coastal Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay) and the region of taiga.

The Ungava survey was not conducted in 2013 due to the same technical issues that grounded aircraft for the Breeding Waterfowl Survey in the Eastern Survey Area. Therefore, we present the results from the 2012 survey. The number of Canada Goose breeding pairs (observed as pairs or single birds, together representing the number of indicated breeding pairs) was estimated at 190 340 (SE = 20 448) pairs in 2012, which was similar (p = 0.41) to the 2011 estimate of 216 032 pairs (SE = 23 230; Harvey and Rodrigue 2012; Figure 36). The total population estimate (indicated pairs x 2 + non-breeders) of 871 198 (SE = 93 379) in 2012 was also similar to the 2011 estimate of 980 181 (SE = 104 l201). While the breeding pair and total population estimates have both risen nearly five-fold since 1995 (record low level of about 30 000 pairs), caution should be used when interpreting the estimate of total population size, as it includes breeding pairs, non-breeders, failed breeders and moulting migrants from other areas. Harvey and Rodrigue (2009) noted that the difference in density of breeding pairs has become much more obvious since 2001, with the Hudson Bay coast now supporting more than 4 times the density of breeding pairs as the Ungava Bay coast. This could be related to a number of factors, including differential survival or productivity rates. Regardless, the potential for growth appears to be more limited for geese nesting along the Ungava Bay coast (Harvey and Rodrigue 2011). In 2012, the approach used to estimate the abundance of the AP Canada Geese was revised. The previous approach, using a stratification based on ecological zones, was replaced by a stratification based on breeding pair density. Estimates for previous years (1994–2011) were recalculated using the new stratification, so they are not comparable to those in previous years (Harvey and Rodrigue 2012).

In 1997, a preseason banding program was initiated for AP Canada Geese breeding on the Ungava Peninsula, along the northern Hudson Bay coast and along the south and west coasts of Ungava Bay. Field crews captured and banded 858 adults and 1 241 goslings (total 2099 geese) along Ungava Bay and 839 adults and 801 goslings (total 1640 geese) along Hudson Bay in 2013, for a total of 3739 geese. The preliminary Immature:Adult ratio in the catches was 1.2, slightly lower than the long-term average (1997–2012) of 1.44. This result indicates that productivity of AP Canada Geese from the Ungava Peninsula in 2013 was below average.

In the boreal forest, Canada Geese are counted as part of the Eastern Waterfowl Survey. Estimates for the recent decade (1999–2008) clearly remain above those for the 1990–1998 period. The region covered by the Eastern Waterfowl Survey is at the southern limit of the nesting range of AP Canada Geese.

Temperate-breeding Canada Geese in Eastern Canada

This population of Canada Geese nests in southern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. There is also a growing population in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, following deliberate re-establishment of local Canada Goose flocks beginning in the late 1960s. Though sometimes referred to as “resident,” many migrate as far north as James and Hudson bays in Ontario and to northern Quebec during the moulting period, and some winter as far south as Virginia. In turn, an increasing number are remaining to overwinter in southern Ontario (Dennis et al. 2000). In addition to the growing numbers breeding in Canada, temperate-breeding Canada Geese in the eastern United States have also increased rapidly, and large numbers of subadults and failed breeders move to Canada for the moulting period.

As recently as 1970, Canada Geese did not commonly nest in southern Ontario. However, results of the Southern Ontario Waterfowl Plot Survey show that the population south of the French and Mattawa rivers has grown since the 1970s to just over 83 000 pairs (5-year average since 2009; Figure 37). Increasing at a rate of 9.4% annually from 1971 to 2013, population growth has slowed down, with an average annual increase of 1.9% since 2003 (Table 1a). A relatively small but increasing number of geese also breed north of the surveyed area but south of the range of Ontario’s two sub-arctic breeding populations. The 2013 fall flight for the Ontario temperate-breeding population is estimated to be around 500 000 individuals. In 2013, 3525 temperate-breeding Canada Geese were banded in southern and central Ontario.

In southern Quebec, the 2010 estimates along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River was 900 indicated breeding pairs, and the 2012 estimates in the St. Lawrence lowlands was 2100 pairs (C. Lepage, unpubl. data). The species has expanded rapidly into southwestern Quebec since 2004, with an increasing trend of 4.4% annually along the St. Lawrence shoreline (2004–2010) and 8.2% in the lowlands (2004–2012; Table 1b).

Contemporary estimates of breeding effort in Maritime Canada (as derived from the Eastern Waterfowl and Agricultural Landscape survey plots) suggest an average of roughly 6200 indicated breeding pairs broadly distributed across the region in spring, with the highest densities found in agricultural areas. Banding operations initiated in Maritime Canada in 2007 continued through 2013 in an attempt to assess the contribution of this population to overall goose harvest in the region. Approximately 3000 Canada Geese have been banded in the Maritimes in the past 7 years.

Southern James Bay Population Canada Goose

The Southern James Bay Population (SJBP) is composed of Canada Geese of the subspecies Branta canadensis interior, which nest on the southwestern James Bay coast and interior lowland muskeg of Ontario and on Akimiski Island, Nunavut. This population winters in an area extending from southern Ontario, Michigan and Ohio to Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina (Abraham et al. 2008; Figure 34a). Monitoring of the SJBP includes spring population surveys, ground searches for nests and banding, all of which contribute essential information for management of this population.

The spring population has been surveyed annually since 1990, and there has been no real change in its size since the survey began. The total spring population in 2013 was estimated at 64 081 (50 519 to 77 643) Canada Geese which is lower than the 2011 and 2012 estimates (98 900 and 94 943 geese, respectively; Brook and Hughes 2013a; Figure 38).

The 2013 estimate of 60 856 (SE = 6 758) breeding birds (number of indicated breeding pairs x 2) for Akimiski Island and the mainland was lower than in 2012 (77 503). However, there was no significant change detected when comparing indicated breeding pair numbers (by transect) between 2013 and the previous 5-year average on Akimiski Island or for the mainland. The 2013 estimate was above the threshold level of 50 000 birds, at which changes to harvest regulations would be considered (Brook and Hughes 2013a). Spring phenology was much later than in 2012 and compared with the short-term (5-year) average, but was more similar to the long-term average.

Nesting studies in 2013 on Akimiski Island indicated higher nest density than in 2012 and higher than the 2008–2012 average. Nesting success (78.3%) was higher than 2012 and the 2008–2012 period (Bennett et al. 2013).

In July 2013, 2919 Canada Geese were banded along the southwestern coast of James Bay and on the northern coast of Akimiski Island. The ratio of goslings to adults among geese captured was 1.70. Large numbers of moult-migrant temperate-breeding Canada Geese move to Akimiski Island and to coastal areas of James and Hudson bays. In 2013, 297 temperate-breeding moult-migrant Canada Geese were captured and banded on the SJBP breeding range (Hagey et al. 2013). On breeding areas, they may compete for food resources with SJBP goslings and, as a result, contribute to the high gosling mortality that is observed on Akimiski Island in some years.

Mississippi Valley Population Canada Goose

The Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) of Canada Geese (B. c. interior) is bounded between the Eastern Prairie population to the west and the SJBP to the east. This population nests in northern Ontario, principally in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, west of Hudson and James bays, and winters in southern Illinois, southern Indiana, western Kentucky and western Tennessee. Monitoring of the MVP includes spring population surveys, ground searches for nests and banding, all of which contribute essential information for management of this population.

Spring phenology was later in 2013 compared with the 5-year average and more comparable to the long-term average. Snowmelt and river breakups were later than 2012 and also more similar to the long-term average (Brook and Hughes 2013b). The estimated 2013 breeding population of 319 693 (SE = 40 004; number of indicated breeding pairs x 2) was approximately 16% higher than in 2012 (268 840) but was approximately 10% below the 1989–2012 average of 353 396 breeding birds. Numbers of flocked birds observed were near average but fewer were counted than in 2012. Surveys indicated a total population of 390 657 (278 755 to 502 559) Canada Geese, which was below the 2012 estimate of 402 844 but above that of 2011 (300 208; Figure 39; Brook and Hughes 2013b).

In 2013, nest monitoring at Burntpoint Creek found more total nests (333) than in 2012, which is above average breeding effort than in the previous few years. Nest density was higher than the previous 5 years and third highest since monitoring started in 2001. Total nest success was approximately 79.6% which is considerably higher than in 2010 (29.5%), 2011 (37.2%) and 2012 (45.9%; Bennett et al. 2013).

In July 2013, 4122 Canada Geese were banded on the coast of western James Bay north of Attawapiskat and the Ontario coast of Hudson Bay. The ratio of goslings to adults among geese captured was 2.70. Also, 213 temperate-breeding moult-migrant Canada Geese were banded on the coast of western James Bay north of Attawapiskat and on the Hudson Bay coast (Hagey et al. 2013).

Eastern Prairie Population Canada Goose

This Canada Goose population (B. c. interior) nests in the Hudson Bay lowlands of Manitoba. The birds overwinter in Manitoba, Minnesota and Missouri (Figure 34b). Spring surveys of Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada Geese have been flown annually since 1972, providing good baseline data for this population.

The 2012 survey estimate of single and paired EPP geese was 116 300 (99 300–133 300), 13% lower than last year’s estimate of 133 100 (113 500–152 700, p = 0.205). The 2012 spring total population was estimated at 262 500 (227 400–297 600), 36% higher than the 2011 estimate of 192 900 (168 600–217 200, p = 0.001; USFWS 2012; Figure 40).

Most Canada Geese that nest in prairie/parkland/boreal habitats of the Prairie provinces and Northwest Territories are monitored annually through the WBPHS (Figure 6). Historically, Canada Geese in this region were divided into several units for harvest management purposes: Western Prairie/Great Plains Population, Hi-Line Population, and the Rocky Mountain Population (Figures 34b, c). As temperate-nesting populations of Canada Geese in the United States and Canada have grown and expanded, the need for such subdivisions has declined, and instead we report on trends observed in Prairie Canada (strata 26-40) and western boreal regions of the WBPHS (Strata 12-25, 50, 75–77; Figure 6).

Canada Geese in prairie strata of western Canada averaged approximately 73 000 birds annually from 1970–1979 but grew to 652 000 birds annually from 2004–2013 (Figure 41). Boreal strata in western Canada have been consistently surveyed only since 2000. Numbers of Canada Geese in these strata averaged about 234 000 birds annually from 2000–2013, and recent estimates appear to be increasing (Figure 41). Overall, numbers of Canada Geese have increased over time in all 3 Prairie provinces and in the Northwest Territories.

Pacific Population Canada Goose

The Pacific Population (PP) of Canada Geese nests and winters west of the Rocky Mountains from northern Alberta and B.C. south through the Pacific Northwest to California (Figure 34c). In Canada, this goose population breeds in central and southern British Columbia and comprises both migratory and non-migratory (resident) segments.

Breeding Pacific Canada Geese are surveyed in the course of the WBPHS and two major surveys are used to estimate trends in duck populations in British Columbia: the large-scale (11-million-hectare) aerial survey of the B.C. Interior, and the replicated series of ground counts covering selected wetlands of the Southern and Central Interior Plateau of B.C. Ground counts were modified in 2007 to focus on managed and protected wetlands. The estimate of the PP in 2012 was 221 600 geese, 11% higher than the prior year’s count of 200 000 (USFWS 2013).

The Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey of the British Columbia Central Interior Plateau has tracked the PP of Canada Geese since 2006. CWS analyses estimated the presence of 29 823 individuals in the Central Interior Plateau in 2013, 25% fewer than in 2012. The non-migratory segment is concentrated in the urban and suburban areas of southwestern British Columbia (particularly the Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria areas) and nearby agricultural lands (A. Breault, pers. comm.).

Problem populations of resident and urban Canada Geese are primarily controlled by municipalities and through federal hunting regulations. Key management practices include egg addling (operational in the lower mainland of B.C. for over 10 years), prevention of nesting, landscape management and relocation of moulting flocks to areas where they can be subjected to hunting mortality. Split hunting seasons have been successful in increasing the number of Canada Geese harvested in some agricultural areas, and special permits are issued to protect crops and property (A. Breault, pers. comm.).

Mid-continent Cackling Goose

In 2004, the American Ornithologists’ Union recognized Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii) as a separate species from Canada Geese (Branta canadensis; Banks et al. 2004). The two species are similar in appearance, but Cackling Geese are generally much smaller, nest mainly in arctic tundra and coastal habitats and can be definitively distinguished from Canada Geese based on mitochondrial DNA. The mid-continent population of Cackling Geese includes all Cackling Geese nesting north of the tree line in Canada (Figure 42) and wintering mainly in the Central and Mississippi Flyways. According to band recovery data, birds banded in the westernmost nesting areas generally winter farther west than those from the central nesting areas; those from the central nesting areas winter, in turn, farther west than those from the easternmost nesting areas (Figure 43). Cackling Geese nesting in the central and western arctic are most commonly recovered in eastern Alberta, western Saskatchewan and western portions of the Central Flyway. Those nesting in the western Hudson Bay region between about 75–95°W longitude are mainly recovered in eastern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba and eastern portions of the Central Flyway. Cackling Geese nesting on Baffin Island are recovered in southern Manitoba and in nearly equal proportions in the eastern Central Flyway and western Mississippi Flyway. Few Cackling Geese are recovered in the eastern Mississippi Flyway or in the Atlantic Flyway.

Until recently, Cackling Goose population size had not been estimated on either the breeding or wintering grounds, though trends from midwinter counts and local breeding ground counts suggested that the population was stable or increasing. For example, on western Baffin Island annual helicopter transect surveys were flown in August, from 1996 through 2009. The estimated number of Cackling Geese that occupied the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak on Baffin Island ranged from about 124 000 to 202 000 birds, and averaged approximately 160 000 birds, with no apparent trend over that time (Figure 44). Midwinter counts of Cackling Geese in the Central and Mississippi Flyways averaged about 325 000 birds in the 1970s and increased to an average of about 687 000 birds from 2002–2011, inclusive (Figure 45).

Total numbers of Cackling Geese are difficult to estimate on their breeding grounds using traditional survey techniques due to the sheer size of the nesting range, and on their wintering grounds due to intermixing with other White-cheeked (Canada) Geese. Recently, Alisauskas et al. (2009) suggested that Lincoln’s (1930) approach could be used to estimate population size of several species of arctic-nesting geese for which band recovery data and age-specific harvest estimates were available. Looking at trends in population size for all years where sufficient data were available, it appears that mid-continent Cackling Geese have increased markedly since the 1970s based on Lincoln estimates (Figure 46). The population estimates averaged about 368 000 birds from 1975–1979, and about 2.39 million adults from 2001–2010.

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Based on breeding and wintering ranges, as well as on genetic differentiation, there are four distinct populations of Brant (Branta bernicla) recognized in North America (Reed et al. 1998b). Compared with most other geese, Brant are more vulnerable to sporadic heavy losses from starvation and periodic nesting failures, because of their strong dependence on specific forage plants and the harsh environments where some populations live. This vulnerability requires careful regulation of hunting and monitoring of the status of populations (Reed et al. 1998b). Reed et al. (1998b) provide a review of the information available on this species in North America.

Atlantic Brant

This population of the subspecies B. b. hrota nests around Foxe Basin in the eastern low Arctic. It winters along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina (Reed et al. 1998b). The 2013 mid-winter population estimate for Atlantic Brant was 111 800, 25 % lower than the 2012 estimate of 149 200 (Figure 47). The population estimates have shown no trend during the past decade (USFWS 2013).

Eastern High Arctic Brant

This group of B. b. hrota breeds on islands of the eastern high Arctic, migrating via Greenland and Iceland to winter in Ireland (Reed et al. 1998b). There are no surveys currently conducted on the Canadian breeding grounds, and little information is available about the distribution within breeding range. The number of Eastern High Arctic Brant is estimated through counts on the staging areas in Iceland and the wintering grounds in Ireland, where the population grew from fewer than 10 000 birds in the late 1960s to more than 33 000 in 2004–2005. Results of the 2012 International Census estimated a population of about 42 000 geese, a 10% increase from 2010 (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust 2013).

The percentage of young is also assessed during the fall census. As is the case for most arctic birds, productivity fluctuates markedly between years: only 1–2% of the population is composed of young birds in poor years, with the percentage increasing to as high as 20–30% in good years. The 2012 season was a poor production year with young making only 1.9% of the fall population (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust 2013).

Black Pacific Brant

Pacific Brant include Black Brant (B. b. nigricans) and Western High Arctic Brant, also known as Grey-bellied Brant.

Black Brant nests in the central and western low Canadian Arctic, Alaska and western Russia. It winters along the Pacific Coast, but mainly in Mexico (Reed et al. 1998b). The mid-winter index for Black Brant was 146 846 in 2013, 7% higher than in 2010 when the full survey was last completed (Figure 48; Olson and Trost 2013). Note that Black Brant numbers are obtained by subtracting Pacific Brant counts in Washington State from the total mid-winter counts in the Pacific. Black Brant counts could nevertheless include an unknown proportion of Western High Arctic Brant.

There are no regular surveys of their breeding grounds, but aerial surveys of Black Brant were conducted in June 1995–1998 in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The results suggested that the total population of the Mackenzie Delta, Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula and Liverpool Bay likely exceeded 6000 birds (Hines and Wiebe Robertson 2006). Preliminary mark-recapture and band-recovery estimates suggest that survival rates of adult brant are relatively high (J. Hines, unpubl. data).

Part of the Black Brant population stages along the coast of British Columbia during spring migration. It is estimated that 3000 to 7000 brant stopover in the Queen Charlotte Islands on their way to northern breeding grounds. Roughly 25 000–30 000 Black Brant stage in the Strait of Georgia, B.C., with the Fraser River delta and the Parksville-Qualicum area on Vancouver Island being the 2 most important sites. A statistical model was developed to estimate the volume (total number) of birds moving through the Strait (Hagmeier 2002; Hagmeier et al. 2008).

Historically, between 1000 and 10 000 brant spent the winter in British Columbia. More recent estimates of the wintering population in B.C. indicate that approximately 2500 individuals are found in 3 major wintering locations: the Fraser River Delta (2000+ birds), the Queen Charlotte Islands (200+ birds) and Vancouver Island (100+ individuals; A. Breault, unpubl. data). In the areas of Boundary Bay and Robert’s Banks of the Fraser River Delta, the wintering Brant population has been generally increasing since 1992. The British Columbia peak winter population was estimated at 2204 brant during the winter of 2013, a 79% increase over the 1229 birds observed in the winter of 2012 (Breault, pers. comm).

The Western High Arctic Brant is intermediate in appearance between B. b. nigricans and B. b. hrota, and it is thought by some biologists to be a unique subspecies. It breeds on islands of the western High Arctic and winters mainly in Puget Sound, Washington (Reed et al. 1998b). Mid-winter counts suggest relatively large historical fluctuations in the population size of Western High Arctic Brant (Figure 48). Although Western High Arctic Brant intermix with Black Brant during fall migration and winter, a useful index to population size is the mid-winter count from Washington state, where most of the population is thought to winter. There were 16 454 brant counted in that State in 2013, 6% fewer than in 2012 (17 502; Olson and Trost 2013). This estimate also includes an unknown number of Black Brant.

Western High Arctic Brant are of management concern given their limited number, potentially unique subspecies status and restricted winter distribution. In 2005, Western High Arctic Brant were satellite-tagged on their moulting grounds in the Arctic. The resulting data were used to map southward and northward migration routes, timing of migration, important staging sites, and habitat use patterns at Izembek Lagoon, Alaska, an important fall staging site (these results are to be published soon in a special Wildfowl proceedings). In addition to marking birds, blood samples were taken to test the degree of genetic distinctiveness of the Western High Arctic Brant from other brant stocks breeding and wintering in North America. DNA lab analyses have been completed, and the results will be published soon (S. Boyd, pers. comm.).

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Population Status of Swans

Two species of swans are native to Canada: the Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) and Trumpeter Swan (C. buccinator).

Tundra Swan

Eastern population

There are two management populations of Tundra Swans. The western population breeds along the coastal lowlands of western Alaska and migrates through western Canada and along the Pacific Coast. This population winters primarily in California, Utah and the Pacific Northwest. The eastern population of Tundra Swans breeds from the Seward Peninsula of Alaska to the northeast shore of Hudson Bay and Baffin Island, and migrates through the Prairie provinces and Eastern Canada. This population winters in coastal areas from Maryland to North Carolina along the mid-Atlantic coast, as well as in the lower Great Lakes.

The 2013 mid-winter survey of Eastern Population Tundra Swans observed 107 100 swans (swans counted in Ontario and the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways), similar to the 2012 count of 111 700 and showing stability in the population over the last 10 years (USFWS 2013).

The Mackenzie Delta region and nearby parts of the Western Arctic mainland are one of the most important breeding areas for Tundra Swans in North America and support about one-third of the Eastern Population of this species.

The number of individuals from the Eastern Population killed and retrieved in the U.S. in 2012 was 3555, similar to the previous year’s harvest (Klimstra and Paddling 2013). There are no open seasons for Tundra Swans in Canada.

A migration study using satellite transmitters placed on Tundra Swans captured on Lake Erie (Petrie and Wilcox 2003) demonstrated that eastern Tundra Swans migrated between the wintering areas on the Atlantic coast and staging points in the northern Prairies along a narrow corridor passing through the southern Great Lakes. From there, three major routes were followed to breeding areas in western Hudson Bay, the central High Arctic and the Mackenzie River Delta. To see the migration routes taken by the swans, visit the website.

Western population

The western population of Tundra Swans is counted on its wintering areas. The 2013 estimate of the western population of Tundra Swan was 107 100 birds (USFWS 2013). This count was 9% lower than the 2012 estimate. The harvest of western Tundra Swans in 2012 was estimated at 1369 birds, which represents a 16% increase from 2011 (Olson and Trost 2013).

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Trumpeter Swan

There are three management populations of Trumpeter Swans in North America (Figure 21): the Pacific Coast Population, the Rocky Mountain Population and the Interior Population. The size of each of those populations is assessed at 5-year intervals across their entire breeding range in North America. The first survey in 1968 estimated the population at 3722 Trumpeters. The most recent survey completed in 2010 estimated the population at 46 225 birds, with each of the 3 populations achieving record-high abundance estimates. Cygnets accounted for approximately 26% of the total population, indicating good production of young. The population has been increasing at an annual growth rate of 6% since 1968 (Groves 2012).

In previous surveys, the Pacific Coast Population range in Canada and part of the Rocky Mountain Population range in Canada (Yukon, north-central/northwestern British Columbia) were surveyed using a sampling procedure, and in the remainder a total count was attempted. Because of their increasing abundance and expanding breeding range, in 2010, for the first time, the entire Canadian breeding range of the Pacific Coast Population and Rocky Mountain Population (excluding some very sparsely occupied regions of northern Yukon and north-central British Columbia) was surveyed using a stratified random sampling procedure. The survey used 1:50 000 topographic maps as sample units. A total of 185 maps were surveyed by aircraft in Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories (Figure 21). The Pacific Coast Population in western Yukon and northwestern British Columbia grew 17% from 1236 to 1443. The Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountain Population is now estimated at 8950 ± 1631 (95% CI), based on extrapolation from 4150 swans observed during the survey. This estimate is up 90% from 4718 in 2005. All Canadian areas of the Rocky Mountain Population showed growth since the 2005 survey, ranging from 17% in Yukon to over 150% in Alberta. The change in survey methodology is thought to be responsible for some of the apparent increase in the Rocky Mountain population in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories; previous surveys in these areas were likely underestimating the population.

Small numbers of Trumpeter Swans of the Pacific Coast Population are also encountered in the annual Yukon Roadside Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey. The results show significant increases over the past 5, 10, 15 and 21 years (Figure 24).

In Canada, the Interior Population breeds primarily in Ontario, but small numbers have become established in western Saskatchewan and adjacent Manitoba. The last formal survey for this population in Saskatchewan/Manitoba was conducted in Riding Mountain National Park in 2010, where 49 swans were recorded, up from 30 in 2005 (Parks Canada, unpubl. data). In Ontario, a re-introduction program which begun in 1982 had, by 2005, achieved its goal of at least 500 free-living swans (H. Lumsden, unpubl. data). Surveys in Ontario conducted in 2005 as part of the continental 5-year survey showed a total population of 644 swans in Ontario (Moser 2006). The captive-breeding and release program ended in 2006. The known current (2010) summer distribution in Ontario is shown in Figure 21. The southern Ontario flock has continued to grow, and in 2010, 839 swans were estimated based on winter counts: observed cygnets at all wintering sites were added to an estimate of the adult and subadult population derived from mark/recapture calculations using wing-tagged birds (H. Lumsden, unpubl. data). Breeding Trumpeter Swans have now also become established in northwestern Ontario. In summer 2010, as part of the 5-year continent-wide monitoring program, several aerial surveys and some other observations yielded a total of 274 birds in regions west and north of Thunder Bay. Another flock has become established in eastern Ontario, numbering at least 54 in summer 2010 (H. Lumsden, unpubl. data).

During the winter period, over 40% of the Pacific Coast Trumpeter Swan population is present on the coastline, wetlands and agricultural fields of Vancouver Island and the Fraser River Valley in British Columbia; this is the largest wintering Trumpeter Swan concentration in North America. Aerial surveys of the area’s wintering population have been conducted every 3 years over this entire area, to identify regional and habitat-specific trends in use of the area by swans. During the most recent survey in January and February 2006, estuaries, coastal marshes, farmland and freshwater lakes were the most important wintering sites on Vancouver Island, and swans were distributed almost equally between tidal marshes and upland habitats in the Fraser River Valley. The survey estimated a total of 7570 swans, an 11.7% increase over the 6775 swans observed in 2000–2001. The mid-winter survey of Vancouver Island and the southwest mainland coast scheduled for winter 2009–2010 was cancelled because of flying restrictions around Vancouver and the Strait of Georgia due to the 2010 Olympics, and it has been permanently cancelled following an internal survey assessment.

Approximately 3000 Trumpeter Swans have died in Washington State and British Columbia since 1999, primarily because of ingestion of lead shot (A. Breault, pers. comm.). International efforts overseen by the Washington Department of Fish and Game and the CWS were initiated in 2001 to locate the source(s) of lead. Telemetry studies identified Judson Lake, on the Canada–U.S. border, as a key site responsible for the lead shot poisoning, and hazing activities have been conducted on the lake since 2009. Hazing activities have decreased but not eliminated swan mortalities. As of March 18, 2013, 175 Trumpeter Swan mortalities were recorded during the fall 2012–winter 2013 period (L. Wilson, pers. comm.). Lead poisoning was the suspected cause of death for 44 birds, power line collisions for 70 birds, trauma for 23 birds and the cause of death was unknown for the remaining 38 birds. Current plans for 2013–2014 are to continue with the short-term mitigation strategy of using the exclusion area to prevent swans from accessing the portion of Judson Lake containing the highest density of lead shot. The working group is continuing to investigate effective alternate strategies that would provide a longer-term solution.

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Population Status of Other Hunted Migratory Birds

Thick-billed and Common Murres

Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia) and Common Murres (U. aalge) have traditionally been hunted off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador for generations. Although murres are not migratory game birds, when the province joined Canada in 1949, the importance of murre hunting to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador was recognized, and a variety of legislative and regulatory amendments have allowed for the legal harvest of murres in Newfoundland and Labrador (see Chardine et al. 2008 for details). Through the 1970s and 1980s, large harvests (Elliot et al. 1991) necessitated improved hunter education, regulatory changes and enforcement (Elliot 1991). Those efforts appear to have been successful in reducing the harvest from upwards of 750 000 birds to about 250 000 birds harvested annually by the early 2000s (Chardine et al.1999). Current harvests estimated at less than 100 000 birds are probably well below levels that would compromise population sustainability (using the population model in Wiese et al. 2004). Reduced ice cover appears to lead to reductions in harvest pressure (Gaston 2002a; Gaston and Robertson 2010), so with climate change, reductions in winter ice cover in the future should lead to restrictions in the number available for harvest. Population counts at colonies are indicating that murre populations are healthy, with most colonies showing signs of growth, or at least maintaining themselves (Gaston 2002b; Chardine et al. 2003; Robertson et al. 2004; Regular et al. 2010).

Tracking studies using geolocation tags are showing that many breeding-age murres do not use coastal habitats at all during the winter period, and surprisingly some birds are wintering beyond the continental shelf (Hedd et al. 2011; Gaston et al. 2011). There are differences in wintering areas among birds from various colonies; murres of both species breeding in Labrador make use of coastal waters more than birds from other colonies, while birds breeding in the High Arctic winter in areas that are exposed to harvests in Greenland. Other colonies, such as those in the low Arctic (Thick-billed Murres on Coats and Digges islands, and Common Murres breeding in insular Newfoundland), spend very little or no time in coastal waters (McFarlane Tranquilla, unpubl. data). These results corroborate previous banding results, which show very few recoveries of breeding-age adults (Robertson et al. 2006).

Overall, Thick-billed and Common Murres are doing well in the northwest Atlantic. Current levels of harvest, even when coupled with other sources of mortality such as chronic oiling (which also appears to be declining; Wilhelm et al. 2009), are probably not at levels sufficient to affect the population. However, recent surveys of the major Common Murre colonies along the Labrador coast suggest a long-term decline in colony size for this segment of the population, whereas sympatric colonies of Thick-bill Murres appear to be stable, and Razorbill Auks appear to be increasing in size over the same period. Causes for the decline in Common Murres are not known, and future management actions may be required if the decline continues.

In contrast to the northwest Atlantic, many murre populations are not faring well globally, as this species responds poorly and dramatically to shifts in climate and disruptions of its food web (Irons et al. 2008). Therefore, continued monitoring of this species in Canada will continue to determine whether environmental conditions remain favourable so that murre populations and harvests are sustainable.

In 2011, 52 875 murres were estimated to have been harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is 20% less than the 2011 estimate (Gendron and Smith 2013) but significantly lower than the estimated sustainable level of 250 000 birds.

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American Woodcock

The status of American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) in North America is monitored through the Singing-ground Survey, which consists of a spring count of male courtship displays at dusk. Counts of singing males provide indices to American Woodcock populations and can be used to monitor annual population changes (Cooper and Rau 2013). The survey covers the central and northern portions of the woodcock breeding range. Analyses of band recoveries indicate that there are two relatively discrete populations, and as a result, American Woodcock are managed on the basis of two regions: Eastern and Central. In Canada, woodcock breeding in Manitoba and Ontario belong to the Central Population, while those breeding in Quebec and the Maritimes are part of the Eastern Population.

Population indices for short-term, 10-year and long-term (1968–2013) trends were estimated using hierarchical modelling methods (Sauer et al. 2008 in Cooper and Rau 2013). The number of woodcock heard singing during the 2013 survey was not significantly different from last year for both management units. Also, there was no significant 10-year trend for woodcock heard in the Eastern or Central Management Regions during 2003–2013. However, there were significant long-term declines in the breeding populations in the Eastern and Central Regions (Figure 49; Cooper and Rau 2013).

In Canada, the only significant trends observed in the number of American Woodcock were long-term (1968–2013) declines in Ontario (Cooper and Rau 2013).

The major causes for American Woodcock population declines are believed to be degradation and loss of suitable (early succession) habitat on both the wintering and breeding grounds (Kelley et al. [eds] 2008).

An indirect measurement of recruitment or annual productivity of woodcock breeding populations is derived from age ratios of wings collected from the harvest (Wing-collection Survey). The 2012 recruitment index for the Eastern Region (1.7 immatures per adult female) was equal to the 2011 index and about 0.8% greater than the long-term (1963–2011) regional average of 1.6. In the Central Region, the 2012 recruitment index (1.7 immatures per adult female) was 8% greater than the 2011 index (1.5) and 6% above the long-term regional average of 1.6 (Cooper and Rau 2013).

The harvest of American Woodcock in Canada and the U.S. has been declining over recent decades; this decline, however, was much more pronounced in the U.S. (Figure 50). Now the harvest has stabilized at low levels. In 2012, there were 20 241 woodcock harvested in Canada, 29% below the 10-year average (Figure 50). The number of woodcock hunters in Canada is undergoing a long-term decline, from about 20 000 in the late 1970s to about 2000–3000 at present. In the U.S., the 2012 harvest was estimated at 279 500 woodcock, a decrease from the harvest of 308 700 birds in 2011 and 6% below the 10-year average.

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Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) are among the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America, and are monitored in Canada through the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).

The Mourning Dove population has increased significantly since 1970 but has stabilized during the last decade. The Canadian population is estimated to be between 500 000 and 5 million adults. The population has been increasing in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces but declining in British Columbia and Manitoba during the 1970–2011 period. The population was stable in Alberta during that time period. Similarly, there were no significant trends in any provinces over the past decade (2001–2011), except in Manitoba where a significant decline was observed.

In the U.S., Mourning Dove populations are monitored through the Mourning Dove Call-count Survey, which has been developed to provide an annual index of population size during the breeding season. Mourning Doves are managed on the basis of the 3 regions where dove populations are largely independent. These areas are referred to as the Eastern, Central and Western Management Units. Results from the call-count survey (heard) indicated that abundance of doves decreased in all 3 management units during the long term (1966–2012). Over the most recent 10-year period (2003–2012), there was no evidence for a change in Mourning Dove abundance in the Eastern Management Unit, but there was evidence of a decline in the Central and Western Management Units. Over the most recent 2 years, there was no evidence for a change in abundance in any of the management units. The U.S. population of Mourning Doves is estimated at approximately 349 million individuals (Seamans et al. 2013). Dove hunting is permitted in several states in each of the 3 management units in the United States.

In Canada, Mourning Doves have been hunted in British Columbia since 1960 and 2013 marks the first Dove hunting season for Ontario. The harvest in British Columbia varies considerably from year to year, ranging from an estimated high of 5391 doves killed in 1977 to 95 during the 2008 season. An estimated 12 doves were harvested in British Colombia during the 2012–2013 hunting season. The preliminary estimate of harvest in the U.S. for 2012 was 14 490 800 ± 532 700, a 13% decrease from the harvest of the 2011 season (Seamans et al. 2013).

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Wilson’s (Common) Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) in Canada are monitored through the BBS. However, that survey was not developed specifically to follow trends for this species and large portions of its range are not covered by the survey. Results should thus be interpreted with caution.

Results from the BBS show that Wilson’s Snipe populations have increased in Canada since the 1970s. There have been significant increases in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and declines in New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island during that period. No long-term trends were observed elsewhere in the country. There were significant increases over the last 10 years in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and significant declines in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. No short-term trends were observed elsewhere in Canada.

Although there is no accurate estimate of the size of the population, it is estimated to be over 1 million breeding and migrating birds in Canada. The harvest of this species in Canada appears to have stabilized at a low level over the past decade (Figure 51). In 2012, there were 1120 snipe harvested in Canada, half of last year’s harvest estimate. The estimated harvest in the U.S. for 2012 was 64 900 birds, which was also half of the previous year’s estimate (Raftovich and Wilkins 2013).

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Sandhill Crane

The Mid-continent Population of Sandhill Cranes is the largest of all North American crane populations. This population is composed of approximately two-thirds Lesser (Grus canadensis canadensis), one-fourth Canadian (G. c. rowani), and the remainder Greater Sandhill Cranes (G. c. tabida). Mid-continent Sandhill Cranes breed from southern Ontario northwestward through the Arctic and Alaska and into eastern Siberia. This population winters in western Oklahoma, New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, Texas and Mexico.

The Mid-continent Population of Sandhill Cranes is monitored through a spring aerial transect survey at the key staging area in Nebraska. Indices corrected for visibility bias have been available since 1982. They have been relatively stable since the early 1980s. The uncorrected population index in spring 2012 was 756 217 birds, which was a large increase from the previous year but comparable to estimates from 2009 and 2010 (Kruse et al. 2013; Figure 52). The photocorrected 3-year average for 2010–12 was 538 191, which is above the established population-objective range of 349 000–472 000 cranes.

The Canadian hunting season for Mid-continent Sandhill Cranes is currently open only in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory. The crane harvest in Canada has been quite variable but trending upward since the 1970s (Figure 53). However, the harvest in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan showed sharp declines in the late 2000s. The overall Canadian harvest of Mid-continent Sandhill Cranes was 5041 in 2012, a decrease of 52% compared with last year’s estimate (10 431; Figure 53). The harvest of Mid-continent Sandhill Cranes has been increasing in the U.S. over the years. In 2012, the harvest increased by 8% to 17 295 compared to the previous year (16 059; Figure 53; Kruse et al. 2013).

The Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes has rebounded from near extirpation in the late 1800s to over 30 000 cranes by 1996 (Kruse et al. 2013). The Eastern Population is now rapidly expanding in size and geographic range (Case and Sanders 2009). This population breeds in Ontario, Quebec and several Great Lakes states. The USFWS has conducted a survey of the Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes since 1979 on its major migratory staging areas. The survey occurs during the last week of October each year and provides a fall index of the population. Overall, the survey has documented a long-term increasing trend in the Eastern Population of cranes. The 2012 index was 87 796 cranes, an increase of 21% over 2011 (Kruse et al. 2013). Eastern Population Sandhill Cranes are presently not harvested anywhere within their range. However, the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyway Councils developed a Management Plan for the Eastern Population due to their increasing abundance. This plan sets the guidelines for potential harvest. The State of Kentucky held its second hunting season for Eastern Population Sandhill Cranes in 2012, and 92 cranes were harvested, up from 50 birds in the inaugural season.

In Ontario, staging Sandhill Cranes surveys have been conducted on Manitoulin Island and the north shore of Lake Huron for over a decade. These surveys are coordinated to occur during peak migration. Numbers peaked in October 2009 and since then have fluctuated, likely based on the timing of peak migration and availability of volunteers. During the fall of 2013, a total of 7168 cranes were counted on Manitoulin Island and the North Shore, Greater Sudbury Area and the 2 claybelts in Ontario. A graduate study by Long Point Waterfowl, which is currently concluding, is examining the behaviour and habitat use of cranes along the north shore of Lake Huron. Telemetry data from marked cranes from this study show that these birds overwinter as far south as Florida, but during mild winters, some will tend to overwinter in more northerly states such as Indiana. It is expected that this study will conclude in 2014 (S. Meyer, pers. comm.).

In Quebec, the 2013 population estimate from the Eastern Waterfowl Survey helicopter plots was 5400 indicated breeding pairs. Interestingly, the Eastern Waterfowl Survey surveys only the southernmost portion of what is thought to be the core breeding area of Sandhill Cranes in Quebec. The 1996–2013 trend in the survey area indicates an increase of 13.4% annually (C. Lepage, pers. comm.).

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Band-tailed Pigeon

In Canada, the Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata) is found in forested habitats of coastal British Columbia. This species has a very low reproductive rate of one egg per pair, but some nest twice each season. The BBS provides an annual index to the abundance of the Band-tailed Pigeon since 1970. Results from the BBS indicate a declining trend in the population over the long term (1970–2011) but not over the last 10 years (2001–2011) in British Columbia.

The Mineral Site Survey, implemented in 2004, was developed as an alternative mechanism by which to understand population trends in Pacific Coast Band-tailed Pigeons (Sanders 2013). The Mineral Site Survey involves a visual count of Band-tailed Pigeons at several mineral sites throughout the population’s range (California, Washington State, Oregon and British Columbia). Results from this survey suggest that the abundance of the Band-tailed Pigeon has decreased by 4.7% per year since 2004, but these results are inconclusive (Sanders 2013).

The Canadian hunting season for this species was closed from 1994 through 2001. Population increases in Washington State were primarily responsible for the limited opening implemented in British Columbia in 2001 (where the bag limit was reduced from 10 birds to 5 and the season length reduced from 30 to 15 days). The harvest continues to decline in comparison to the early 1970s, when between 3 000 and 5 000 were harvested annually. An estimated 12 Band-tailed Pigeons were harvested in Canada in 2012. The estimated total U.S. harvest for 2012 was 13 700 Band-tailed Pigeons, equal to that of 2011 (Raftovich and Wilkins 2013).

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American Coot

During the WBPHS, American Coots (Fulica americana) are also recorded in the Canadian Prairies. Results of this survey show that American Coot population estimates have fluctuated greatly over the duration of the survey (Figure 54), with a tendency to show an increasing trend. No results are available for this species in 2013 but the 2012 estimate was 106% above the most recent 10-year average (1 425 737).

The harvest of American Coots in Canada has fallen considerably over time. In 2012 in Canada, the American Coot harvest was estimated at 2 268, an increase of 11% from the previous year. The total harvest in the U.S. in 2012 was 208 700, a decrease of 50% from the 2011 harvest estimate of 416 600 (Raftovich and Wilkins 2013).

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Although rails are counted during the BBS, their sometimes secretive nature and infrequent calling means they are likely to be missed during the survey. The results of trend analyses should therefore be viewed with caution. There is sufficient sample size to estimate trends for Virginia Rails (Rallus limicola) for the country as a whole during the long-term period (1970–2011) as well as for the last 10-year (2001–2011). Trends were increasing in Manitoba over the long term and the 10-year period but there were no significant trends for Ontario. Results for Canada mirror those from Manitoba.

Sora (Porzana carolina) long-term population trends were positive in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. Trends are not reliable for the Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) or King Rail (Rallus elegans) because of relatively low numbers observed or heard during the surveys.

The only province with an open season on hunting rails is Ontario (excluding King Rails and Yellow Rails). Other provinces previously held seasons, but they have been closed in recent years. The collection of harvest data for rails began in 1989 as part of the National Harvest Survey. Since that time, the harvest has been decreasing. None were reported harvested in 2011.

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Literature Cited

Abraham, K. F., R. L. Jefferies, R. F. Rockwell, and C. D. MacInnes. 1996. Why are there so many white geese in North America?  Pages 79-92 in Proceedings of the 7th International Waterfowl Symposium, Memphis, TN. J. T. Ratti, ed.

Abraham, K. F., and R. L. Jefferies. 1997. High populations, causes, impacts and implications. Pages 7-72 in Batt, B. D. J. (editor). Arctic Ecosystems in Peril: Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Canada. 126 pp.

Abraham, K.F. 2002. Record roundup of Ross’s Geese. Ontario Federation of Ontario Naturalists News 20(3): 1.

Abraham, K.F., W.A. Phelps and J.C. Davies (eds). 2008. A Management Plan for the Southern James Bay Population of Canada Geese. Mississippi and Atlantic Flyway Council Technical Sections. 55 pp.

Abraham, K. F., R. L. Jefferies, R. T. Alisauskas, and R. F. Rockwell. 2012. Northern wetland ecosystems and their response to high densities of lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Pages 9-45 in Leafloor, J. O., T. J. Moser, and B. D. J. Batt (editors). Evaluation of special management measures for Mid-continent lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.

Alisauskas, R.T., S.M. Slattery, D.K. Kellett, D. Stern and K.D. Warner. 1998. Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Ross’s and Snow Goose Colonies in Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary, 1996–1998. Progress report on numbers of geese and colonies, September 1998. Unpublished report of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region.

Alisauskas, R.T. 2001. Nutritional Ecology and Population Biology of Ross’s Geese, 2001. Unpublished report of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region.

Alisauskas, R.T., J.J. Traylor, C.J. Swoboda and F.P. Kehoe. 2004. Components of population growth rate for White-winged Scoters in Saskatchewan, Canada. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 27(1): 451-460.

Alisauskas, R.T., K.L. Drake, S.M. Slattery and D.K. Kellett. 2006a. Neckbands, harvest and survival of Ross’s Geese from Canada’s central Arctic. J. WIldl. Man. 70: 89-100.

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Appendix A – Special Conservation Measures for Fall 2013 and Spring 2014

Measures in Quebec Concerning Overabundant Species
AreaPeriod during which Snow Geese may be killedAdditional hunting method or equipment
District ASeptember 1 to December 16, 2013, and
May 1 to June 30, 2014
Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f)

Recorded bird callsFootnote(d)
District BSeptember 15 to December 28, 2013Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f)
District C and DSeptember 1 to SeptemberFootnote(a),
September 14 to December 28, 2013, and
March 1 to May 31, 2014Footnote(a)
Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f)

Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f)

Recorded bird callsFootnote(d)
District ESeptember 1 to September 13, 2013Footnote(a),
September 15 to December 28, 2013, and
March 1 to May 31, 2014Footnote(a)
Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f) and bait crop areaFootnote(e)

Recorded bird callsFootnote(d); baitFootnote(e)
District FSeptember 6 to September 20, 2013Footnote(a),
September 21, 2013, to January 4, 2014 and
March 1 to May 31, 2014Footnote(a) Footnote(b) Footnote(c)
Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f) and bait crop areaFootnote(e)

Recorded bird callsFootnote(d); baitFootnote(e)
District GSeptember 28 to December 26, 2013Recorded bird callsFootnote(d) Footnote(f)


Footnote a

Hunting and hunting equipment are allowed only on farmland.

Return to footnote (a) referrer

Footnote b

In District F, no person shall hunt south of the St. Lawrence River and north of the road right-of-way of Route 132 between the western limit of the municipality of Montmagny and the eastern limit of the municipality of Cap-Saint-Ignace, other than in lots 4 598 472 and 2 61 981 in Montmagny municipality.

Return to footnote (b) referrer

Footnote c

In District F, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, no person shall hunt north of the St. Lawrence River and south of a line located at 1000 m north of Highway 40 between Montée St-Laurent and the Maskinongé River. On the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, no person shall hunt south of the St. Lawrence River and north of the railroad right-of-way located near Route 132 between the Nicolet River in the east and Lacerte Road in the west.

Return to footnote (c) referrer

Footnote d

"Recorded bird calls" refers to bird calls of a species referred to in the heading of column 2.

Return to footnote (d) referrer

Footnote e

Hunting with bait or in a bait crop area is permitted if the Regional Director has given consent in writing pursuant to section 23.3.

Return to footnote (e) referrer

Footnote f

Any species of migratory bird for which it is open season may be taken while hunting Snow geese with recorded Snow Geese calls.

Return to footnote (f) referrer

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Measures in Ontario Concerning Overabundant Species
AreaPeriod during which Snow Geese may be killedAdditional hunting method or equipment
Wildlife Management Unit 65March 1 to May 31, 2014Footnote(a)Recorded bird callsFootnote(b)


Footnote a

Hunting and hunting equipment are allowed only on farmland.

Return to footnote (a) referrer

Footnote b

“Recorded bird calls” refers to bird calls of a species referred to in the heading of column 2.

Return to footnote (b) referrer

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Measures in Manitoba Concerning Overabundant Species
AreaPeriod during which Snow Geese may be killedAdditional hunting method or equipment
Zone 1August 15 to August 31, 2013, and April 1 to June 15, 2014Recorded bird callsFootnote(a)
Zones 2, 3 and 4March 15 to May 31, 2014Recorded bird callsFootnote(a)


Footnote (a)

"Recorded bird calls" refers to bird calls of a species referred to in the heading of column 2.

Return to footnote (a) referrer

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Measures in Saskatchewan Concerning Overabundant Species
AreaPeriod during which Snow Geese may be killedAdditional hunting method or equipment
East of 106°W longitudeApril 1 to May 31, 2014Recorded bird callsFootnote(a)
West of 106°W longitudeApril 1 to April 30, 2014Recorded bird callsFootnote(a)


Footnote (a)

"Recorded bird calls" refers to bird calls of a species referred to in the heading of column 2.

Return to footnote (a) referrer

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Measures in Nunavut Concerning Overabundant Species
ItemAreaPeriod during which Snow Geese may be killedAdditional hunting method or equipment
1.Throughout NunavutAugust 15 to August 31, 2013 and May 1 to June 30, 2014Recorded bird callsFootnote(a) Footnote(b)


Footnote a

"Recorded bird calls" refers to bird calls of a species referred to in the heading of column 2.

Return to footnote (a) referrer

Footnote b

Snow Goose call recordings may be used but, if used with decoys, the decoys may only represent white phase Snow Geese or blue phase Snow Geese, or any combination of them.

Return to footnote (b) referrer

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Appendix B – Figures

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Appendix C – Tables

Tables 1 - 3

Tables 4 - 6

Tables 7 - 9

Tables 10 - 12

Tables 13 - 15

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Appendix D – List of Acronyms

APAtlantic Population of Canada Goose
BBSBreeding Bird Survey
COSEWICCommittee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
CWSCanadian Wildlife Service
EPPEastern Prairie Population of Canada Goose
GPPGreat Plains Population of Canada Goose
HLPHi-Line Population of Canada Goose
ISRInuvialuit Settlement Region
MSSMineral Site Survey
MVPMississippi Valley Population of Canada Goose
NAPNorth Atlantic Population of Canada Goose
NAWMPNorth American Waterfowl Management Plan
OMNROntario Ministry of Natural Resources
PPPacific Population of Canada Goose
PWGSCPublic Works and Government Services of Canada
RMPRocky Mountain Population of Canada Goose
SCWDSSoutheast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study
SDJVSea Duck Joint Venture
SGPPShort-grass Prairie Population of Canada/Cackling Goose
SJBPSouthern James Bay Population of Canada Goose
TGPPTall Grass Prairie Population of Cackling Goose
USFWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
WBPHSWaterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey
WPPWestern Prairie Population of Canada Goose
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