Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes, extending
approximately 38 miles from north to south. As with the other Finger
Lakes, Cayuga Lake was glacially carved and is relatively narrow. TheCayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes, extending
approximately 38 miles from north to south. As with the other Finger
Lakes, Cayuga Lake was glacially carved and is relatively narrow. The lake spans three counties, with the City of Ithaca on its southern end
and Seneca Falls just west of the northern end. To the west lies Seneca
Lake and to the east Owasco Lake. Much of the lakeshore is developed
or in agriculture, but there are scattered marshes and wetlands. The
lake is owned by State of New York and the lakeshore includes mostly
private land with some municipal and state-owned land, including
land administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation
and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP).

Ornithological Summary

The entire lake is important to waterfowl during migration and winter,
supporting high numbers of individuals and a great diversity of species
(around 30 species of ducks and geese). During 2000-2004, the lake
supported an average of 1,346 American Black Ducks (11% of state
wintering population), 2,987 Mallards (8% of state wintering population),
403 Canvasbacks (4% of state wintering population), 6,012 Redheads (45%
of state wintering population), 332 scaup, and 993 Common Goldeneyes (8%
of state wintering population). Counts of Pied-billed, Horned, and Rednecked
Grebes sometimes number in the hundreds during fall and winter.
The airspace over the lake is an important pathway for Common Loons
migrating from Lake Ontario to Delaware Bay, with count totals of 8,000-
10,000 from October through early December. Large numbers of gulls and
smaller numbers of terns use the lake, especially during migration, when
species include Bonaparte?s Gulls (100-1,000 plus), Ring-billed Gulls (oneday
counts of 20,000-50,000 plus), and Caspian Terns (30-40 plus).
Mixed species
flocks 41,839 ind. in 2004, 27,401 in 2003, 68, 704 in 2002, 61,259 in 2001,39,250 in 2000

Conservation Issues

The introduction of zebra mussels and non-native fish may negatively
affect the aquatic ecosystem and the prey base of certain waterfowl
species. However, some diving duck species feed extensively on zebra
mussels and may benefit from their population increase. The lake is
heavily used from spring through fall for recreational boating and
fishing. Disturbance does not seem to be a major problem since the
largest concentrations of waterfowl occur before and after the peak
of the boating season. Pollution from various sources, including
boats and non-point source agricultural runoff, could impact the
aquatic ecosystem and should be monitored. More research is needed
to understand how different species of waterfowl are impacted by
changes in the lake ecosystem. A Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration
and Protection Plan was written in 2001 under the oversight of the
Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization. The Cayuga
Lake Watershed Network is involved in the NYS Citizens Lake
Assessment Program, water quality (phosphorus, sediment, and
bacteria) monitoring, and invasive plant control.