Birding

One for the birds! 

Chasing birds around the globe is a passion for avid birders, but you don’t have to rack up frequent flyer miles to find new feathered friends. A birding adventure is as close as the nearest Metropark.

Take a walk on any trail, visit one of the Windows On Wildlife or attend a program to learn about the amazing diversity of birds in our region. Because northwest Ohio lies at the crossroads of two busy flyways for migrating birds, any Metropark on any given day—especially spring and fall—can bring a delightful surprise. Programs can even be adapted for your group’s age, subject requirements and interests.

Lucas County has an abundance of birds and plenty of places to see them. Metroparks is part of the Lake Erie Birding Trail, featuring the premiere sites to see almost 400 species. While the spring migration of warblers—those colorful little songbirds—put northwest Ohio on the map as a birding destination, there are plenty of birds of all sizes to see any season.

Birding at Pearson

Pearson, in Oregon, is close to the Lake Erie shore, as the birds fly. Preserving one of the last pieces of the Great Black Swamp, the park offers a variety of birding experiences.

The original, 300-acre park, with an entrance on Lallendorf Road at State Route 2 (Navarre Avenue), is a swamp woods with well-warn paths and charming Depression era stone shelters. A Window on Wildlife at the Packer-Hammersmith Center overlooks feeding stations where you are likely to see a variety of birds, especially warblers during migration. Other species to look and listen for are woodpeckers, oriole, red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, redstart, woodthrush, hermit thrush and flycatchers.

Until only a few years ago, Pearson North, a 300-acre addition with an entrance on Seaman Road, was a farm field with a small woodlot. Today, it is a restored wetland. Gone are the ceramic tiles that once drained the “swamp,” replaced with a meandering stream that diverts runoff water onto the land, creating a giant bird bath.

From an observation deck adjacent to a late-1800s Black Swamp Cabin, visitors can view a variety of water-loving birds. It is common to see killdeer, great egrets and great blue herons, adding a whole new dimension to birding in the popular park. Also look for American kestrels hunting in the fields and the occasional snipe.

Birding at Oak Openings

More than 250 species of birds are listed on the Oak Openings Preserve checklist. The park, and the larger Oak Openings Region of which it is a part, is a premier birding destination in the region. Listed as an Audubon Important Bird Area, “The Oaks” attracts novice and advanced birders alike. The Oak Openings Region is a rare collection of habitats, from sand barrens to grassy wetlands, and the home of more rare and endangered plant species than anywhere else in Ohio.

Lark sparrows, a state-listed endangered species, nest on the dunes and are easy to see along Girham Road in the spring. Pine siskins and other northern finches are among the winter visitors that frequent the Window On Wildlife at at the Buehner Center. Birders may also be interested to know that the tiny, federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly flits about in the prairies, where they were reintroduced.

From the tiniest warblers to red-headed woodpeckers to the largest birds of prey, Oak Openings is a birder or botanist’s paradise. As the largest Metropark, with more 4,000 acres and trails from just a half-mile to more than 15 miles, there is also plenty of room to roam. Camping and the Caretaker's Cottage are available for overnight stays.

Wildwood Preserve in West Toledo, Secor Metropark in Berkey and Wiregrass Lake in Spencer Township are also within the Oak Openings region.

Birding at Wildwood

Because Wildwood is covered in trees, it is where many forest species make their home. Several rare breeds of warblers have been spotted along the trails. At Window On Wildlife at the Metz Visitors Center provides a warm, dry place to spy birds and other wildlife feeding in any season. On the trails, listed for the barred owls, which can be heard calling even during the day. The Ottawa River floodplain is a great place to see woodland birds, including several species of woodpeckers.

Birding at Secor

A swamp forest in the Oak Openings Region, Secor has mature woods loaded with birds. You may even see a pileated woodpecker. The cerulean warbler breeds in the park and you can count on seeing a variety of warblers during the spring and fall migration. Secor is also known for hummingbirds. A Window On Wildlife overlooks feeding stations and a water feature at the Nature Photography Center. 

Birding at Swan Creek

Swan Creek Preserve, in South Toledo with entrances on State Route 2 (Airport Highway) and Glendale Avenue, is an oasis in the city. Just steps from a busy highway, a visitor can disappear into a mature woods, hop on a trail through a meadow or down to the floodplain of the park’s namesake stream, Swan Creek, a major tributary to the Maumee River.

In addition to a wide assortment of birds, including migrating warblers and rose-breasted grosbeaks, the preserve is known for having an impressive display of wildflowers in early spring. Wildlife you may encounter include raccoon, mink, muskrat and (just before dark) screech owls. A Window on Wildlife at the Yager Center (Airport Hwy entrance) overlooks a very active bird feeding station.

Birding at the River Parks

Side Cut Metropark, in Maumee, is best known as a destination for fishermen during the spring walleye run. That’s when tens of thousands fish swim upriver to drop their eggs in the protective cobblestone below the rapids. Here is also where you will find wading birds fishing the rapids. Upland areas away from the river are good places to scout for songbirds. The nearby Fallen Timbers Battlefield has a mature woods where you may see a wood thrush or other woodland species.

Side Cut, which includes a chain of Maumee River islands, is listed as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.

Upriver, Farnsworth and Bend View, in Waterville, and Providence, near Grand Rapids, are three other Metroparks along the Maumee River that are connected by an 8-mile Towpath Trail. The trail corridor is an excellent place to view migrating warblers, Baltimore orioles and cedar waxwings. You might see or hear a noisy belted king fisher, or even witness an osprey or bald eagle fishing the river. Tree swallows are often seen at Providence, where they nest in natural cavities or birdhouses. 

Birding at Wiregrass Lake

In addition to woodcocks, Great blue herons and variety of songbirds found there, Wiregrass Lake is known for something that an increasing number of birders have their sights on: dragonflies. The park is home to more than 50 species of dragonflies—nearly one-third of the 162 species found in Ohio.

Birding at Blue Creek

At Blue Creek, follow the scenic trail around a quarry pond and watch for Eastern meadowlark and barn swallows.

Birding at Howard Marsh

Located on the Lake Erie shore where birds gather to nest or rest before making the journey over or around the big lake, Howard Marsh is will be an exciting new development for bird lovers. Metroparks is restoring the 1,000-acre property to coastal wetland habitat, with a water trail and dike top hiking trail. Adjacent to Metzger Marsh State Wildlife Area, Howard Marsh and part of the complex of local, state and federal parks and refuges, it is certain to be a stop for birders, especially during the spring and fall migrations of waterfowl, raptors and—of course—warblers.

Take a Look!

Several parks allow visitors to view birds up close and personal.
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