California is unusual compared with the rest of the nation in that the majority of mallards that are harvested here hatched here, rather than coming from the “Duck Factory” Prairie Pothole Region of the central United States and Canada.
In addition, our ducks don’t tend to leave in the winter: According to research, 96% of mallards that hatch here are harvested here. Oregon gets 3%.
Our breeding population of mallards used to be much stronger, but after plunging during the recent drought, it has failed to rebound. Several major factors are holding it back, and all are about habitat:
- The Sacramento Valley has experienced a substantial loss of breeding habitat, fueled in part by significant changes in agricultural practices.
- Water is being deliberately withheld from the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which has become a crisis. Lower Klamath – when it has water – is not only a significant breeding area, but also a molting area, which is critical for California’s mallards.
- Water diversion measurement requirements and mosquito abatement limit the availability of summer brood water in many parts of the state.
- New groundwater restrictions are likely to exacerbate problems with summer brood water going forward.
California Waterfowl convened a mallard summit on Aug. 3, 2019, bringing together representatives of a variety of governmental and non-governmental agencies to discuss the issues affecting mallard populations. (Click here for a copy of Powerpoint presentations – warning: 253MB.)
CWA is working to address this problem on multiple fronts:
- Our regional biologists develop breeding habitat on both public and private lands. Contact them if you’d like help with a wetland that you manage.
- Our advocacy team fights for funding to improve breeding habitat, including a very important bill to fund the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program.
- Our waterfowl program staff:
—Created this handy guide to improving breeding habitat.
—Bands ducks for research.
—Is piloting an incentive program for farmers to delay harvest of winter wheat crops to give mallard nests time to hatch.
- Our Egg Salvage Program works with wildlife-friendly farmers to salvage duck nests from their fields prior to normal farming operations that might destroy nests.
- Our new Delayed Wheat Harvest Incentive Program provides incentives for farmers to delay wheat harvest long enough to let ducklings hatch naturally and leave the field with their mothers.
Would reducing mallard limits solve the problem? No. Click here to learn why.
Want to support our efforts? Please donate!
Farmers flock to new program that saves wild ducklings (March 30, 2020)
Putting our money where our mouth is: paying for increased mallard, pheasant production (California Waterfowl, Spring 2020)
Population survey: Mallards need more than water to rebound (California Waterfowl, Fall 2019)
CRITICAL HUB: LKNWR (Infographic PDF) (California Waterfowl, Fall 2019)
FAQ: California’s waterfowl breeding population survey (Aug. 26, 2019)
CWA Mallard Meeting powerpoints (Warning: 253MB!) (Aug. 3, 2019)
Sources of California mallards – Mallard Meeting poster at 8.5×11 – PDF (Aug. 3, 2019)
Mallard breeding population down this year (June 28, 2019)
Funding for duck clubs: After 15 years, the Presley Program is back! (California Waterfowl, Summer 2019)
Want more mallards? Do something about it! (California Waterfowl, Winter 2017)
Populations and harvest (infographic PDF, 3.6 MB) (California Waterfowl, Winter 2017)
2020 Adaptive Harvest Management (PDF) (establishes 2020-21 regulatory framework)
2019 Adaptive Harvest Management (PDF) (establishes 2019-20 regulatory framework)
Waterfowl Population Status, 2019 (continental breeding population survey)
Migratory bird hunting activity and harvest during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 hunting seasons, August 2019 (continental harvest survey)
Distribution and derivation of dabbling duck harvests in the Pacific Flyway (2017) by Cristina N. de Sobrino, Cliff L. Feldheim, and Todd W. Arnold
California mallards: a review. (2018) by Cliff L. Feldheim, Joshua T. Ackerman, Shaun L. Oldenburger, John M. Eadie, Joseph P. Fleskes, And Gregory S. Yarris
RECENT LEGISLATION CWA HAS FOUGHT FOR
Duck and pheasant breeding habitat fee
AB 2106 (Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters): This CWA-sponsored bill would add $5 to the state upland bird and waterfowl validations to give a much-needed boost to California’s waterfowl and pheasant breeding populations, which are suffering habitat declines. The revenue would support the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program, which was created by AB 2697 (James Gallagher, R-Yuba City ) in 2018, but not funded. The incentive program can pay farmers and other landowners, including private duck clubs, to fallow, grow cover crops like vetch or enhance existing nesting habitat. If a landowner wanted to also open the field to public pheasant hunting, for example, he or she could be paid to provide that public benefit too. Monies could also be used on state wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges to improve breeding habitat on those lands and thus increase public land hunter opportunity. In a survey last year, 74% of CWA members and supporters said they would support the additional fee to boost breeding habitat. Click here to read our letter of support (PDF).
SB 253 (Bill Dodd, D-Napa): Would establish an incentive-based conservation program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture and require the program to optimize wildlife habitat benefits while supporting the economic viability of California agriculture by providing incentives and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers. Click here to read our coalition letter of support (PDF).
Funding to purchase wildlands
SB 474 (Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park): Would would extend the sunset date on the Habitat Conservation Fund, which annually transfers $30 million to various natural resource entities, including the Wildlife Conservation Board, to purchase wildlands for the public, establish conservation easements on private land and enhance the habitat values of existing public lands. The Habitat Conservation Fund has put nearly $420 million into more than 800 projects statewide, including land purchases, easements and improvements. CWA has done work with these funds in 19 counties from Siskiyou to Imperial. Huntable public lands that have benefited from the fund include the Ash Creek, Gray Lodge, Yolo Bypass, Grizzly Island, North Grasslands, Mendota and San Jacinto wildlife areas. Click here to read a conservation coalition letter of support (PDF). Update: This legislation was incorporated into the state budget, so this funding has been extended for 10 years.
Nesting habitat incentive – passed and signed by governor
AB 2697 (Gallagher, R-Yuba City): This CWA-sponsored bill created a waterfowl and upland game bird Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program for farmers who wish to fallow a portion of their land. View our letter (PDF) here. CWA is is currently working with the Legislature to secure funding for the program.
Proposition 68 – passed by voters
Prop. 68 included $10 million for the Presley Program, which provides incentive funding to improve wetland management on private wetlands and prioritizes properties with breeding habitat. California Waterfowl played a significant role in getting the Presley funding into the initiative. Voters passed the initiative 57% to 43%.
Federal Farm Bill – passed and signed into law
The 2018 Farm Bill provides significant funding for a number of conservation programs, including:
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides farmers financial assistance to implement a variety of conservation practices. This program could help support the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program, which was created in 2018 through a CWA-sponsored bill (AB 2697 by James Gallagher, R-Yuba City) to create and enhance nesting habitat for mallards and pheasants on fallowed lands.
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which fosters partnerships with farmers, state agencies and nonprofit groups to implement conservation initiatives. RCPP could also help support California’s Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program.
- The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) supports the former Wetlands Reserve Program, which is used by many duck clubs that choose to protect their wetlands in perpetuity.
View our letter (PDF) here.
Pesticide alternatives – passed and signed into law
AB 718 (Frazier, D-Discovery Bay): aims to reduce mosquito spraying costs to private landowners. View our letter (PDF) here, and our press release here.