Ohio Nature

Birding Ohio

From gulls to sparrows, Ohio harbors some of the best habitats of any Midwestern state for birds. The examples are many. Nineteen species of gulls have been documented, an amazing total for ANY state, and this is in large part due to the importance of Lake Erie as a migratory pathway and wintering area. This fantastic lake also is critical to many species of shorebirds. Of the almost 50 species of shorebirds that have occurred here, many have evolved a critical dependence on western Lake Erie habitats as stopover locale to rest and refuel for the incredible trans-global migrations they undertake.

Surface coal extraction—strip mining—while rightly considered an ecological catastrophe has had an unexpected but fortuitous benefit in southeastern Ohio by creating enormous grasslands during "reclamation."  These grasslands have become key breeding areas for declining species such as the Henslow's Sparrow, and consequently Ohio now supports some of the best remaining populations of grassland breeders in the Midwest. Of course, these sites are sensational for wintering birds, too, in particular raptors. And the hundreds of thousands of acres of reclaimed surface mines are large enough to have altered the wintering range of Golden Eagles and also attract huge numbers of Northern Harriers, Rough-legged Hawks, and Short-eared Owls.

The Buckeye state is legendary as a migratory pathway for migrants, especially warblers, and the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area bird trail is famous among birders far and wide. On a good May day, the trees and thickets here can seem to drip with birds, and even the mundane becomes extraordinary, such as the massive packs of Blue Jays winging overhead. Visit this site International Migratory Bird Day and you'll share the experience with birders from all across the US and Canada and from many other countries as well. Thousands of birders converge to observe the spectacular spring migration, and someone often turns up a rarity like Kirtland's Warbler.

The total species list for Ohio is 430 birds. Credit: Ohio Ornithological Society.

Where and When to Go


Nature & Birding Hotspots in Ohio


Ohio Birding and Nature Tours


Ohio Ecolodges/Accommodations

  • Salt Fork State Park Cabins
  • Shawnee State Park Lodge
  • East Harbor State Park campgrounds
  • Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center


Best Time to Go

  • Spring migration along the lake is the best time to be in Ohio.


Visit Ohio


Resources