Lake Michigan Long – Tailed Duck Study

Lake Michigan – Long-tailed Ducks

Prime example of a long tailed duck

Background – Little research has been done on long-tailed ducks (LTDUs) that overwinter on Lake Michigan, and LTDUs studied in other regions (Lake Ontario, and Atlantic Coast) have shown limited use of the western Great Lakes. Our project aims to evaluate the ecology of LTDUs that utilize Lake Michigan, and the issues that may be impacting them. There are three main components of this study, and each is outlined below.

Migration and Habitat Use – Satellite telemetry will be utilized to describe the migration patterns and habitat use of LTDUs captured on Lake Michigan. Satellite transmitters, programmed to transmit once every three days, will be surgically implanted into the abdominal cavity of adult females. Location data from the transmitters will be used to describe the migration patterns, breeding ground affiliations, and site fidelity of wintering LTDUs.

Food Habits – Invasive species have altered the forage within Lake Michigan, which could impact the health of LTDUs. We wish to evaluate the forage of LTDUs through the traditional method of examining the esophagus, and new technology of fecal DNA. We will do this by utilizing harvested birds donated by hunters. Captured birds will also be utilized to determine if there are any diet changes throughout winter.

Hunter Harvest – The current method of determining harvest is the Harvest Information Program or HIP. Each hunter must be HIP registered to hunt migratory birds, and must report their harvest numbers to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This information, along with wings submitted by randomly selected hunters, is used to estimate the harvest of individual species within each state. Information regarding harvest can be found at: These estimates are rough, and we would like to estimate the harvest, by conducting surveys at launches that hunters depart from and return to. We can then compare results of the two methods, and provide additional information to resource managers.

Conclusion – From this study we hope to provide resource managers with information regarding the habitats, forage, and harvest of LTDUs that utilize Lake Michigan. We also hope to include the public, hunters, and resource managers in the study effort, so that the best management decisions can be made regarding LTDUs. Feel free to contact me, if you are interested in participating in a capture effort, reporting harvest, donating birds, or want additional information regarding the project.

Luke Fara Graduate Research Assistant Cooperative Wildlife Research Lab Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1125 Lincoln Drive, MC 6511 Carbondale, IL 62901-6511 (414) 731-9439