Watch Your Step During Ground-nesting Season


By Karen Menard

Most of us visiting a Metropark in May or June won’t realize just how many birds are watching us from their nests as we pass them by on the trails. Birds and their nests are often quietly camouflaged or hidden in the grasses or small shrubs. Numerous species of birds choose Metroparks to call “home,” during the summer months because these natural areas offer abundant food and excellent habitat.  

Many of these breeding birds fly hundreds to thousands of miles twice a year between their summer home in the Metroparks and their winter home in the southern United States or even Central and South America! Keep in mind that migratory birds only spend approximately 30 percent of their year in northwest Ohio to breed, and then migrate back to their wintering grounds.  It has been documented that some birds return every year to the very same nesting spot in northwest Ohio. As trail users, we often share these same, special habitats with nesting birds. Surprisingly, many nest on the ground (well camouflaged), very close to the trail edge in open meadows, prairies, wood edges, or sand dunes.

It’s very important to keep in mind that during May and June, nesting season is occurring. Stepping off trails can flush birds out of their nests and may also cause nest failure or harm to young birds. Metroparks asks all park users to be more sensitive than usual to ground nesting birds when on the trails. Please follow the tips below so that these birds will have a successful breeding season:

  • If there are signs noting an area is “Closed” during nesting season, please use another trail or view birds from the edge of the area. Areas in Oak Openings Preserve Metropark are closed in May and June to protect the nesting lark sparrow, an endangered bird in Ohio.
  • Keep dogs on short, retractable leashes.
  • Stay in the middle of the trails when walking or taking nature photos in open areas.
  • Do not step off of the trail.
  • Keep your distance if you see a nest or young birds just leaving the nest.
  • Pay attention to signage in noted habitats.

Northwest Ohio species that commonly nest on the ground or very near the ground include:

  • Lark Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Woodcock
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Eastern Meadowlark