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Ducks

Various Classifications


Population Status

Distribution:

Migration: The common migrant ducks include Long-tailed Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Eider, White-winged and Surf scoters. Most of the migration is latitudinal (ie. moving east or west) along the coastal plain.

Breeding/nesting: Common nesters include Long-tailed Duck, Northern Pintail, Greater and Lesser scaup. Most of the nesting occurs in and near tundra ponds and in major river deltas. The relative importance of areas to different species is known.

Moulting: Moulting occurs along the entire coastal plain, but the largest concentrations of moulting ducks occur in the sheltered waters of Workboat Passage. Smaller concentrations are found in Phillips Bay, and between Kay Point and Shingle Point. Moulting is also likely to occur in fresh-water habitats on the coastal plain, although the significance of these areas is unknown.

Population size:

Very roughly, between 11,000 and 24,000 ducks are thought to nest on the Yukon North Slope.

Population trend

:Local trends (North Slope specific) are unknown.

Unique or special characteristics:

In the Yukon, the North Slope is the most common nesting area for nesting Long-tailed Ducks. Here, they are a characteristic tundra species and contribute significantly to the Arctic experience of naturalists and wilderness enthusiasts.

Habitat Features

Probably the most significant habitat feature of ducks on the Yukon North Slope is the protected marine environments, particularly in Workboat Passage and Phillips Bay, where concentrations of moulting ducks occur. Breeding, nesting and moulting habitat are well known for most species.

Harvest

Inuvialuit:

Ducks represent a significant part of the Inuvialuit subsistence harvest. Much of the harvest takes place in the Mackenzie Delta during the spring. From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. Funding and support for the collection of harvest data is supplied through the IFA and other agencies.

Others:

Regulations under Yukon Wildlife Act, NWT Wildlife Act and National Parks Act apply in their respective jurisdictions. Sport hunting of ducks is basically non-existent due to the relative remoteness of the Yukon North Slope. Were there sport hunters, the Migratory Birds Regulations would apply.

Harvesting Rights
AreaInuvialuitOthers
Ivvavik National Park Exclusive None Permitted
Herschel Island Territorial Park Exclusive None Permitted
East of the Babbage River Preferential With license, bag limits, seasons
Adjoining NWT Exclusive on Inuvialuit lands and preferential on Crown lands With license, bag limits, seasons

Eco-tourism

The stunningly beautiful and highly vocal Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eiders are exclusive to tundra biomes during the summer and are therefore commonly associated with Arctic wilderness. As such they hold special appeal to birders and naturalists.

Threats

The biggest threat to ducks on the Yukon North Slope is an oil spill or other marine contamination. Northern harvest currently poses minor risk to ducks although hunters should avoid concentrations of flightless moulting ducks. Industrial development may impact limited breeding areas, although this risk is currently not apparent. The threats associated with climate change are unknown.

Research and Monitoring

Population monitoring:

There is an ongoing program to record species observed on Herschel Island.

Research:

No research is currently planned.

Deficiencies:

One management deficiency is the imprecise monitoring of specific duck populations. Very little information exists on waterfowl productivity, survivorship, and mortality rates on the Yukon North Slope. Breeding population estimates (proportion breeding) are inaccurate.

Management

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan guides the goals and objectives of waterfowl management.

Management Jurisdictions
AreaLegislationEnforcementAgreementsOccurance
Ivvavik National Park IFA, Migratory Birds Convention, Migratory Birds Regulations Parks Canada Migratory Birds Convention

North American Waterfowl Management Plan

Arctic Goose Joint Venture
Nesting, moulting, migration
Hershel Island Territorial Park Yukon Wildlife Act YTG
East of the Babbage River National Parks Act YTG
Adjoining NWT NWT Wildlife Act GNWT

A Migratory Bird Protocol which sets out provisions for spring hunting has been agreed upon by Canada and the United States and has been ratified by Canada.

Community-based Information

In 2003, the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee undertook a project to record traditional knowledge of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope. The observations, comments and concerns expressed by Aklavik residents as part of this study were as follows:

Common eider (Somateria mollissima)

  • People only spoke of the female Common Eiders that they see nesting and, after mid-July, see on the near shore with their little ones.
  • Most of the nesting on Herschel Island is in the grass and sticks on the gravel. Common Eiders probably nest close to the buildings to get away from the foxes.
  • A few other nests are seen in other locations along the coast, mainly on spits and islands such as Shingle Point and Escape Reef (Seagull Island).
  • Predation by gulls and ravens is a worry, and by foxes, particularly on Herschel.
  • Unusual ice build-up and ocean currents alter the size and location of spits.
  • Unusual summer storms can raise ocean levels and flood nests on low islands.
  • Rangers on Herschel warn visitors not to frighten females off nests, as gulls and ravens may get the eggs.

Long-tailed Duck (Clugula hyemalis)

  • Individuals who spend time near Herschel in July and to the west see these ducks in groups of 50, often with scoters, floating in the ocean. Numbers seem stable.
  • People living in July near Shingle Point see fewer on the ocean there than long ago.
  • There are general concerns about lesser numbers of many waterbird species in the Shingle area.

White-winged and Surf scoter (Melanitta fusca, Melanitta perspicatta)

  • Scoters, known locally as “black ducks”, remain as abundant as ever as they pass through the delta on their way north. They moult in the thousands offshore, and pass through the delta on their way south.
  • Most people harvest larger pie ducks.
  • Large moulting groups are most often seen to the west, off Herschel. One person said most of these were males.
  • No one knew where these birds nest.

Community-based information on this species may also be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. http://www.taiga.net/coop/community/index.html

In 2004, the Inuvialuit Cultural Resources Centre prepared a report titled “Tariurmiutuakun qanuq atuutiviksaitlu ilitchuriyaqput ingilraan Inuvialuit qulianginnin = Learning about marine resources and their use through Inuvialuit oral history”. Transcripts from two Inuvialuit oral history collections were reviewed to see what could be learned about marine resources and their use within the southeastern Beaufort Sea. The study area included the coast from the Yukon/United States border in the west to the Franklin Bay area in the east. Information was compiled on beluga and bowhead whales, some coastal birds, fish, polar bears and seals, in an effort to provide a foundation for developing future projects on Inuvialuit knowledge of marine resources. http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/279627.pdf

Related Literature and Information Sources

Conant, B., and Groves, D.J. 2002. Alaska-Yukon waterfowl breeding population survey, May 17 to June 9, 2002 / Juneau, Alaska : U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eckert, C.D., 2007. Personal communication, Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.

Hawkings, J. 2002. Personal Communication, Canadian Wildlife Service, Whitehorse.

Hines, J., B. Fournier and J. O’Neill. 2004. Spring and fall distribution of waterfowl and other aquatic birds on the mainland of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, western Canadian Arctic, 1990-98. Canadian Wildlife Service, Technical report series - no.426.

Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 - 1997. Inuvik, NT. http://www.fjmc.ca/publications/IHS.htm

Sinclair P.H., W.A. Nixon, C.D. Eckert and N.L. Hughes (eds). 2003. Birds of the Yukon Territory. UBC Press Vancouver. 596 pp.

Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee. 2003. Aklavik Inuvialuit describe the status of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope, March, 2003. Final Report. Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope), Whitehorse, Yukon.

Yukon Bird Club. 2000. Check list of the birds of Herschel Island. http://www.taiga.net/wmac/herschel/herschelbirds.pdf