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Waterfowl

There are 35 species of ducks, geese and swans that spend at least part of each year in Canada. The recruitment and mortality rates of waterfowl vary in response to weather, climate, habitat loss, competition for resources, environmental contamination and other factors, as they do for all species. However, waterfowl differ from most other bird populations in being subject to mortality from hunting. As such, considerable effort is dedicated to ensuring that hunting is regulated at a sustainable level.


Atlantic Brant captured for banding on the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak, Baffin Island, Nunavut.
Photo: Steve Wendt, CWS

For these reasons, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) has been a partner for many years in programs to monitor the status of waterfowl species. A review of monitoring programs for waterfowl and other species groups can be found in Monitoring Bird Populations: the Canadian Experience.

Based on these surveys, the CWS Waterfowl Committee, coordinated through the Migratory Birds Conservation Division, and comprising the regional waterfowl biologists of the Canadian Wildlife Service, produces an annual report in November on the population status of migratory game birds. More detailed information on waterfowl status is produced at intervals; for example, the report entitled "Towards Conservation of the Diversity of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)" describes the status of the diverse types of Canada Geese.

Information on status and trends is used to identify important waterfowl areas, as well as to indicate species that require more focussed attention. Research, management of habitat, and decisions about appropriate hunting regulations take place through partnerships at the regional level. The present status of many waterfowl species is very good, with populations at or near the international goals agreed to under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). However, some species of sea ducks continue to experience long-term declines. In contrast, Snow Geese have become so abundant that they may endanger other wildlife through their effects on habitat.

While NAWMP works through partnerships aimed primarily at meeting the habitat needs of healthy waterfowl populations, management of hunting is also an important conservation tool. CWS works with provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations to develop annual regulatory proposals for consultation with international partners and with the interested public.

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan Continental Progress Assessment (PDF 1.3 MB) has just been released. The report presents the findings of the Assessment Steering Committee which interviewed and received written material from each of the habitat and species joint ventures in North America, as well as from other key agencies concerned with waterfowl management and conservation. This wide-ranging review of progress and prospects for achieving the NAWMP vision presents several recommendations for setting future direction and priorities for the Plan.


King Eider duckling captured for banding on the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak, Baffin Island, Nunavut. Photo: Kathy Dickson, CWS