Cooperatove Conservation Project

DTE Energy Trenton Channel Power Plant

Common Tern Habitat Restored in Detroit River

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Michigan

Project Summary: Through local partnerships in Michigan, DTE Energy is helping the common tern make a comeback along the Detroit River.
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A pair of common terns soar over the Detroit River in southeast Michigan. Photo courtesy of DTE Energy.
Resource Challenge

Once numbering in the thousands along the Detroit River, the common tern population has declined over the past 25 years. Today only 250 breeding pairs can be found along the river in remnant gravel beds. Many of the gravel beaches that were traditionally used by common terns no longer exist. Creating new nesting habitat for the common tern, a threatened species in Michigan, will allow the birds to breed in an area that is undisturbed by humans and reduces the risk of predation.

A site located in the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River was chosen because of its proximity to common tern food sources. Nesting sites need to be close to water since terns primarily feed on alewives and minnows. DTE Energy’s Trenton Channel Power Plant provided funding, equipment and volunteers for establishing a man-made rock island. The company purchased gravel and funded its transport to the rock island, where employees evenly distributed it to provide habitat for the terns.

Examples of Key Partners
Detroit Audubon Society, DTE Energy, Friends of the Detroit River, Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy, Northern Michigan University, Southgate Anderson High School and Wildlife Habitat Council.
Results and Accomplishments

Based on the knowledge that common terns prefer to nest in riverine gravel beds, DTE Energy’s Trenton Channel Power Plant donated crushed limestone for use in constructing artificial tern habitat. Together with the Trenton Green Team, project partners established an artificial nesting island around a bridge pylon in the Detroit River. When the bridge was constructed, large boulders were placed near the bridge footings to protect it from boats passing by. Gravel was transported on a barge from the plant and spread over these boulders.

In 2004, during the first nesting season, students from Southgate Anderson High School and volunteers from the Detroit Audubon Society collected blood samples for analyses and banded approximately 60 chicks. The second nesting season in 2005 showed that 180 pairs of common terns made the island home and more than 100 chicks successfully fledged. “This is an excellent example of how industry, local government, conservation groups and individuals can come together to create a project that will have lasting benefits far into the future,” said Robert Burns, Detroit Riverkeeper, Friends of the Detroit River.

The Trenton Channel Power Plant and associated Sibley Quarry also established a certified habitat program through the Wildlife Habitat Council serving as a role model for the surrounding community and business neighbors. For these efforts, DTE Energy and its employees were honored with the Wildlife Habitat Council’s prestigious 2004 Corporate Habitat of the Year award for excellence in the areas of voluntary wildlife habitat enhancement and restoration.

“We have an obligation to enhance the quality of life for today’s society and for generations to come. At DTE Energy, we believe that protecting the environment begins in our own backyard. We appreciate the work of the Wildlife Habitat Council as they advise us in managing our “backyards” to benefit wildlife," said Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive, DTE Energy.


The common tern habitat restoration project will increase and maintain the common tern population in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Project Contact
Vanessa Kauffman
Director of Marketing & Communications
Wildlife Habitat Council
8737 Colesville Road, Suite 800
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Mary Bohling

DTE Energy
2000 Second Ave., Rm 1051 WCB
Detroit, MI 48226


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