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Black ducks and mallards featured in Aaron Yetter’s blog off aerial surveys

Aaron Yetter features black ducks and mallards in his blog off the aerial waterfowl surveys this week.

Resized/Sun-Times
Close up view of black ducks and mallards flying Wednesday at Senachwine Lake.
Aaron Yetter/Illinois Natural History Survey

Black ducks and mallards are featured this week in Aaron Yetter’s blog off the weekly aerial waterfowl survey.

Yetter has interesting tidbit on how few black ducks are harvested in Illinois in his blog. I have only seen one black duck harvested in my life and it was taken just downstream of Senachwine Lake.

Here is the survey:

November 21th, 2019 – Aerial Waterfowl Inventory Blog

We flew the waterfowl survey on Wednesday, November 20th, 2019. Duck numbers on the Illinois River were up slightly and estimated at 190,160 total ducks. However, this was 33% below the 10-year average. Mallards were up 17% from last week with a notable increase near Chillicothe. Mallards totaled 115,740 and about 60,000 of those birds were observed in the vicinity of Woodford County State Fish and Wildlife Area. I spoke with some refuge managers up there and was told some mallards pushed in on Tuesday, November 19th. Duck numbers (286,675) on the central Mississippi River were down 46% from last week and were 33% below average. Mallards totaled 167,620, which was less than half of what we counted last week. I was disturbed by this until I was told the central zone in Missouri had a split, and the season was closed for several days. I bet those mallards spread back out into the duck clubs. We will find out next week because the season reopened today, November 21st.

I noticed several black ducks this week on the upper Illinois River, so I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight this elusive duck. My colleague, Josh Osborn, typed up some tidbits about this species. Black ducks (Anas rubripes) were once the most abundant waterfowl species in North America with a range that covered the eastern third of the U.S. They thrived in those days largely due to the expansive bottomland hardwood forests with scattered areas of aquatic vegetation. However, the landscape changed over the years with deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urban development and that had both direct and indirect effects on black ducks. Unfortunately, the population has undergone a 50% decline. Currently, there are around 720,000 black ducks in the breeding population, but most of those use the Atlantic Flyway. The ratio of blacks wintering in the Atlantic Flyway versus the Mississippi Flyway is more in the neighborhood of 90% to 10% in recent years. With so few black ducks spread out over the wintering grounds of the Mississippi Flyway, it makes sense that they are a trophy bird when harvested here! In 2018, hunters harvested nearly 87,000 black ducks, 71,000 in the Atlantic Flyway and 16,000 in the Mississippi Flyway. Illinois hunters harvested about 1,000 (6%) of those Mississippi Flyway black ducks. If we dig even deeper into harvest numbers, we find that black ducks made up <0.5% of total harvest in both Illinois and the Mississippi Flyway. So, if you shot a black duck in Illinois last year, or any year for that matter, consider yourself lucky! For many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime bird!

For more information about the waterfowl survey, check out our webpage at www.bellrose.org. Stay tuned for more updates next week…….