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Migratory Birds

Western Lake Erie Basin

Stopover sites are critical to the survival of migratory birds.

Each year as the weather warms, hundreds of millions of birds will make their annual trip north to the forests, prairies, streams, rivers and beaches of the United States and Canada.

En route to nesting grounds, these winged migrants will make many stops along the way, touching ground to rest and refuel in preparation for the next leg of their trip. These stopover sites, as they’re known, are critical to the survival of migratory birds, whose journeys can span thousands of miles. 

The Great Lakes region is critically important for all groups of migratory birds, whether they’re nesting or simply stopping by on their way through. Millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, song birds, and raptors utilize the area’s varied habits that provide an assortment of food, cover and roosting areas. 

In Ohio, the western basin of Lake Erie is a hotbed of migratory bird activity, supporting some of the largest numbers of land birds found during migration. 

What You'll See

The few remaining near-shore forests, shrublands, grasslands and marshes that define the shoreline of the western Lake Erie region provide a rich bounty of food that sustains a broad variety of migratory birds. 

Protected with help from The Nature Conservancy, places like Dupont Marsh, Irwin Prairie, Putnam Marsh, and Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area offer visitors the opportunity to explore some of these unique shoreline habitats and the migrants that inhabit them. 

The Lake Erie Birding Trail was launched in 2011.  Plan your tour of the region's best birding spots, including the Conservancy's Kitty Todd Preserve. 

Current Conservation Work

Populations of some migratory birds have declined drastically over the past 30 years, mostly due to habitat loss of the birds’ breeding and wintering grounds, as well as the loss of stopover sites along migration routes.  Scientists predict that ten percent of all bird species will become extinct by the end of this century. 

The Conservancy and its partners are working to protect what remains of the critically important shoreline of Lake Erie’s western basin through land acquisition, restoration and education efforts. 

  • Conservancy scientists recently developed a successful model to locate the varying types of key stopover sites along Lake Erie, and have used it to identify places still in need of protection. The Conservancy plans to replicate this site identification process throughout the Great Lakes. 
  • Because effective conservation efforts must occur at both ends of the migratory bird flyway, the Conservancy is protecting migratory bird habitat in Central and South America and throughout the Caribbean Islands, where many Ohio species overwinter.
  • At 750 acres, The Nature Conservancy’s Kitty Todd Preserve is the centerpiece of the Oak Openings Region, a complex of oak savanna and wet prairie that supports an array of migratory birds, such as the red-headed woodpecker and cerulean warbler.



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