MI Birds

Wetlands are the Answer for Better Birding Habitat

By Chris Sebastian, Ducks Unlimited

May 13, 2019

Michigan is fortunate to hold a prominent spot on the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways, two arteries of avian migration for birds of all shapes and sizes.

Over 340 bird species pass through our state because they need our habitat to rest and re-fuel on their journeys. And our remaining 6.4 million acres of wetlands are some of the best habitat for birds on their long treks! Up to half of North America’s bird species rely on wetlands for survival. Many of our birding and hunting adventures take us through wetlands because we know we’ll encounter an abundance of shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, and songbirds.

Wetlands in Michigan have struggled. Human development for roads, neighborhoods, and farming have slashed our stock of historical wetlands by 50 percent. Protecting and bringing back these habitats are vital to more than our outdoors heritage. Wetlands are necessary for clean water, flood prevention, and economic impact. More than 35 million people rely on the Great Lakes for clean water, for drinking and recreation.

This importance of wetlands led to the establishment of Ducks Unlimited in 1937, with the sole mission of conserving wetland habitats for water and people. Over the last 30 years, Ducks Unlimited has protected, restored or enhanced nearly 84,000 wetland acres on more than 400 project sites across Michigan, investing $43 million into conservation. We’ve partnered with many MI Birds consortium members on these projects, including Audubon Great Lakes, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and others.

Ducks Unlimited’s Michigan projects can be found from the top of the Upper Peninsula down to the shores of Lake Erie. Several milestone projects completed or underway in the last 12 months have added to a sizeable historical investment in Michigan:

  • William C. Sterling State Park, Monroe County – Ducks Unlimited and the Michigan DNR installed a fish passage and a wetland water-level management structure at one of the most visited state parks in Michigan.
  • Anchor Bay Woods Preserve, New Baltimore – Ducks Unlimited helped Six Rivers Land Conservancy purchase 38 acres of wet-mesic flatwood forest to add to its Anchor Bay Woods Preserve. This habitat-type is critical for migrating Rusty Blackbirds, breeding Prothonotary Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush, and several other sensitive wildlife species.
  • Shiawassee River State Game Area, Saginaw – Ducks Unlimited is improving 1,200 acres of wetlands at this Important Bird Area by replacing aging infrastructure.

You can help wetlands, too! Buy a Federal Duck Stamp, one of the most successful conservation tools ever created to protect habitat for birds and other wildlife. Talk to your legislators about creating laws and funding to protect wetland habitats. And finally, join conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and other MI Birds partners to help Michigan remain an important exit on the migration superhighway.

MI Birds is a public outreach and education program created by Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Birders and hunters share similar conservation values, but rarely cross paths. MI Birds aims to bridge the divide, and deepen all Michiganders engagement in the understanding, care, and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.

How you can help, right now