Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative

These stopover habitats provide important rest areas

Sunrise with ducks flying

As waterfowl wing their way through the very heart of America en route from northern breeding grounds to southern wintering haunts, they fly over a vast landscape of short and mixed-grass prairies dotted with playa lakes and other large, historic wetland complexes. These stopover habitats provide important rest areas where waterfowl may feed and refuel on their great migratory flights across the continent each spring and fall. Lying in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, the Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative area often receives little rainfall. But when it does, the landscape thrives as wetlands recharge and provide habitat for waterfowl and a host of other wildlife. As the primary migration corridor for waterfowl in the Central Flyway, up to 4 million ducks and 1 million geese may winter in this area.

Threats to important waterfowl habitats within the region include limited water availability and wetland drainage. The same wetland landscapes that support Central Flyway waterfowl also provide crucial habitat for many threatened and endangered species, such as the lesser prairie chicken and snowy plover. These wetlands recharge the groundwater aquifers that the region's residents rely on for a clean, dependable water supply.

Additionally, expansive tracts of short and mixed-grass prairies abound in this region and serve as protection against the wind-driven soil erosion seen during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. Ducks Unlimited was founded by sportsmen during that historic time and remains committed to ensuring sufficient healthy habitat for waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever. You can help with your support of DU's Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative.

Securing Stepping Stones for Waterfowl

Waterfowl journey thousands of miles each year and they must have suitable habitat along the way to ensure success. In the Southern Great Plains, Ducks Unlimited is focusing its conservation efforts on protecting, restoring, and enhancing moist-soil marshes and associated habitats, particularly those on publicly managed wetland complexes. These key wetlands connect nesting habitats in the north with wintering areas in the south, allowing migrating birds to reach their destination and increase nest success.

Some of the Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative area's most important wetland complexes have been restored by DU and its partners. They are habitat cornerstones that support the annual life cycles of countless migratory birds and other wildlife, and provide people with tremendous hunting and birding opportunities. DU ensures these critical resources are available by combining resources and expertise with those of partner agencies, foundations, corporations, other conservation organizations, and private landowners to accomplish the common goal of wetlands conservation.

DU's Plan for the Southern Prairies and Playas

Ducks Unlimited is seeking to raise public and philanthropic funds to achieve our conservation goals in this region. Funding derived from the Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative enables Ducks Unlimited to conduct important science, public policy, and outreach efforts, as well as conserving the habitats important to waterfowl that migrate and winter in the region. DU's research and evaluation efforts are the foundation upon which our direct conservation programs and our policy and outreach work are based.

Ducks Unlimited is working with a strong team of partners through the Playa Lakes Joint Venture to design and implement direct habitat conservation programs on private lands; expand and enhance historical large wetland basins on public lands that serve as migration stopovers, guide public policy to conserve valuable water resources, and evaluate impacts of wind and mineral energy development. DU also provides funding support for Playa Lakes Joint Venture science efforts for decision support systems that help strategically plan where conservation efforts will have the greatest impact.

Southern Prairies and Playas at a Glance

Initiative States:
New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas

Conservation Focus:

Cross-border Conservation


Southern Playas

Waterfowl are a continentally shared resource, and Ducks Unlimited has worked across North America since 1937 to ensure a strong future for ducks and for waterfowl hunters. By contributing to DU's Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative, you will be supporting important waterfowl habitat conservation in this region, as well as on the breeding grounds of the Prairie Pothole Region and Western Boreal Forest of the United States and Canada, where the vast majority of birds are produced before beginning their journey to the wintering grounds.

The Southern Prairies and Playas Need You Now

Your gift to Ducks Unlimited is invaluable, and it is truly the greatest contribution you can make to secure the future of wetlands and waterfowl. Every dollar you give to Ducks Unlimited is leveraged multiple times to create a conservation impact far beyond your initial gift. In addition, we invest at least 80 cents of every dollar received in our conservation mission. Start making a difference right now for waterfowl, outdoorsmen, and future generations of wildlife and people by making your gift to DU's Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative. Help conserve key habitats in this region with your gift today.

Don't wait.

Call DU at (601) 956-1936 today to speak with our fundraising staff for your area.

Make an online gift.

Download a printable PDF for this initiative.