U.S. Great Lakes System

Level II Ducks Unlimited conservation priority area, the single largest source of fresh water in North America

© Michael Furtman

The Great Lakes are the largest source of fresh water on the continent. Historic wetland loss, conversion of lands to development, water quality problems and an expanding human population are the greatest challenges that face this region. DU is dedicated to reversing the trends of wetland habitat losses, restoring and protecting habitats, educating conservation values, and making the Great Lakes a better place for breeding, migrating and wintering waterfowl.

Importance to waterfowl

  • Mallards, wood ducks, blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks, mergansers and Canada geese are common breeding species.
  • Managed marshes adjacent to vegetated shoreline areas of the Great Lakes provide limited nesting habitat for canvasbacks, scaup, mallards, black ducks and red-breasted mergansers.
  • More than 3 million ducks are estimated to migrate annually through the region.
  • The Saginaw Bay area is a key migration area for the Southern James Bay population of Canada geese.
  • Wild rice lakes in Minnesota provide important habitat to migrating and breeding ring-necked ducks, mallards, blue-winged teal, and wood ducks.

Habitat issues

  • Continued loss of remaining wetlands is estimated at 1 percent annually.
  • Reductions in the quantity and quality of wetland and associated upland habitats have resulted in declining wildlife populations.
  • Lack of suitable migration habitat, especially for spring migrants, may be a factor in black duck, canvasback, scaup and redhead population declines.
  • Sustained high water levels and growing development pressures threaten the habitat quality of wild rice lakes in Minnesota.

DU's conservation focus

Restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem has, and will continue to be of the utmost importance to wildlife, waterfowl and people. To see DU's Great Lakes Initiative, visit the Great Lakes Initiative homepage.

  • Provide habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl; particularly mallards, wood ducks and blue-winged teal.
  • DU and partners recently completed a study to identify factors that limit the Great Lakes mallard population and is using this research to refine its conservation programs.
  • Landscape scale research to identify the habitat and energetic requirements of spring staging waterfowl in the Great Lakes system.
  • Improve water quality in coastal areas, hence food resources, via watershed-based restoration activities.
  • Protect and restore wild rice lakes in Minnesota through conservation easements and water level management.

States in the U.S. Great Lakes System region

Illinois | IndianaMichigan | Minnesota
New York | OhioPennsylvania | Wisconsin