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ducks

Students in the hallway looking at ducks
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

It might not be Pamplona, but the annual "Running of the Ducks" at Ken-O-Sha Park Elementary School in Grand Rapids is its own time-honored tradition. 

This Friday, students and teachers gathered in the hallways to watch as a mother duck marched her ducklings to water for the first time.

The mother duck nests in the school's courtyard every year. When spring comes, she leads her babies through the school and into the woods a few hundred yards away.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Everyone knows this has been a brutally cold winter in Michigan.

And not just for people.

Polar cold temps have resulted in Michigan lakes and rivers icing over to record degrees. That’s left little open water for ducks to feed.

Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

If you’re a duck, this is a good news, bad news story. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes surveys of the ten most abundant duck species every year. 

Brad Bortner is Chief of the Division of Migratory Bird Management at the Fish and Wildlife Service.  He says this year’s survey recorded 48.6 million ducks. That’s the highest number of ducks recorded since the agency started keeping records in 1955.

"We’ve had a series of very good years on the prairies, with excellent water conditions and great habitat management and restoration programs," he said.

He says more than half of North America’s duck breeding happens in the prairie pothole region of the Dakotas and eastern Montana.  It’s nicknamed America’s duck factory.

Bortner says species such as mallards, gadwalls and redheads are all doing great, and he says the breeding duck populations in Michigan are doing well, too.

So, that’s the good news.  The bad news: some other duck species are not doing so well.