U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Detroit River
International Wildlife Refuge

male lesser scaup with water behind and cattails to the right
9311 Groh Road
Large Lakes Research Station
Grosse Ile, MI   48138
E-mail: detroitriver@fws.gov
Phone Number: 734/692 7608
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Diving ducks such as lesser scaup prepare for migration at Detroit River Refuge.
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  Wildlife and Habitat

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The coastal marshes of western Lake Erie and the Lower Detroit River have provided habitat for the highest concentration of staging American black ducks in North America, with an annual average peak of 51,500 birds before black duck numbers declined. The area contains extensive feeding and nesting habitat for waterfowl.

There are over 300,000 diving ducks that stop each year to rest and feed on beds of wild celery in the Lower Detroit River during fall migration. On average, more than 8,000 canvasbacks and 7,000 common mergansers are recorded each year during the annual Christmas Bird Count centered on Rockwood, Michigan. Canada geese are very common throughout the refuge.

A wide variety of wading and shorebirds can be found within the refuge area. The Lake Erie shoreline has been recognized as a Site of International Shorebird Importance. In 2000, 26,000 shorebird observations were made during the months of July, August and September at the nearby Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. Shorebirds represent an especially important group of vertebrates that depend upon wetlands.

There are several active bald eagle nests within the authorized refuge boundary, including two active nests in Wayne County and five active nests in Monroe County. The bald eagle is listed on both the Federal and State lists of endangered species. In January 1999, 52 bald eagles were observed along the river and Lake Erie shoreline during an annual waterfowl survey.

Ring-necked pheasants, bob-white quail, swallows, red-winged blackbirds, gulls, terns, Canada geese, tundra swans, trumpeter swans, American woodcock, wood ducks, mallards, blue-winged teal, common loons, belted kingfishers and many species of songbirds can also be found in the region.

Several species of mammals are found within the refuge ecosystem. Common species include muskrat, mink, raccoon, eastern cottontail, woodchuck, opossum, striped skunk, white-tailed deer, coyote, gray fox, fox squirrel, and several mole and mice species.

Two State-listed threatened species have been associated with Grassy Island. The spotted turtle was recorded in the Michigan Natural Features Inventory in 1997. The common tern was recorded in 1977.

Lake sturgeon once spawned on the rocky bottom in swift currents just northeast of Grassy Island, one of seven historic spawning areas in the Detroit River. This fish is listed as "threatened" by 19 of the 20 states in its original range and by seven of the eight Great Lakes states, including Michigan. Recent, incidental catches of genetically unique, juvenile lake sturgeon in Lake Erie near the Detroit River suggest that lake sturgeons are reproducing again in the Detroit River. More than 10 million walleye, white bass, steelhead, and salmon migrate through the Detroit River each year and attract many sport fishers to the refuge. Recently, whitefish were found spawning in the Detroit River for the first time since 1916.

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