Ohio Bird Migration


Its an Event!

The big bird migration in Northwest Ohio happens every April and May.  And this isn't just the passing of hundreds of different types of migratory birds pass on their way to more northerly nesting areas.  Its a major event!

Yellow Warbler
A Yellow Warbler

Songbirds (mostly warblers), shorebirds, and waterfowl migrate from their winter havens in the south.  Many come from as far away as South America and Central America.

Most of these migratory birds won't nest here in Ohio.  They are just stopping over before they reach their final destinations in Canada, the boreal forest, or arctic regions.  The summer daylight hours are longer further north.


So why do these birds stop in Northwest Ohio?

By the time the migrating birds make it to Ohio they have already travelled hundreds or thousands of miles.  When they reach northern Ohio they still have one big obstacle to overcome.

Lake Erie stands in their way like a large road block.  The western end of Lake Erie is narrower than the eastern part but it is still about 30 miles wide at this point. 

This is a long way across when there are few places to land.  The birds spend a little extra time along the shores of lake Erie before they make the trip across.

Along the lake shore are marshes such as Magee Marsh and Ottawa Wildlife Refuge.  These state and federally protected areas provide a perfect place to layover on their long journey.

There is both deep and shallow areas of water, plenty of thick brush for cover, and plenty of food.


Colorful Spectacle

The annual bird migration usually peaks early to mid May at Magee Marsh.  This is when the warblers are passing through.  While there are many other birds that are also migrating at this time, its the various colorful warblers that are the main attraction.

During this time of the year the trees aren't yet full of leaves.  Its much easier to see the warblers.

International migratory bird day is held during this time.  It is always the weekend after mothers day.  Magee Marsh and surrounding areas are not only full of migratory birds but also thousands of avid bird watchers.  Each year birders from all over the state also migrate to Magee Marsh to see the birds.


Magee Marsh  Bird Trail

There are a couple trails that go around Magee Marsh.  Two of them are 1/2 mile loops that both start and end at the observation tower.  The loops trails are lined with thick vegetation and are good places to see birds.

 The boardwalk trail is closer to the lake, between the beach and the marsh.  This is referred to as the bird trail and is a favorite trail for seeing warblers.


If you come

If you are an out of town visitor planning to make a weekend (or more) during the bird migration here are a few things to consider:

Places to stay

  • If you are coming from the west there are many places to stay on the east side of Toledo, Northwood, Ohio, and Oregon, Ohio.
  • If you are coming from the east there are also many places in Port Clinton, Ohio.
  • Highly recommended is the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park. This is only a short distance from Magee Marsh and the lodge is high quality!

There are MANY good places to eat in the Toledo area.  There are possibly more restaurants than birds!!


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