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. It is a list of the best sites and trails for birding all along the Lake Erie shoreline. Plan your tour of the region's best birding spots, including the Conservancy's Kitty Todd Preserve and Great Egret Marsh Preserve.
The Nature Conservancy is part of the Biggest Week in American Birding, a 10-day festival (May 8-17, 2015) hosted by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. This festival celebrates birding and features many workshops, tours and presentations. Register, get the guide & get ready for birding in the spring in Northwest Ohio.
While you are in Northwest Ohio in May, take part in Blue Week running May 12-17 in the Oak Openings. Enjoy more birding among the lupines and Karner Blue butterflies during a week-long celebration of this unique region.
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.
- In 2013, The Nature Conservancy created Great Egret Marsh Preserve which consists of more than 150 acres of marsh and surrounding upland. The preserve contributes to the Conservancy’s goal to protect and restore an additional 10,000 acres of coastal habitat along Lake Erie.
- In 2011, The Nature Conservancy and partner organizations launched an ambitious three-year, large scale endeavor to restore important Great Lakes habitats along Lake Erie and its tributaries, including phragmites control in the coastal wetlands of western Lake Erie.
- In 2008, The Nature Conservancy produced Managing Habitats for Migrating Land Birds in the Western Lake Erie Basin (pdf), a practical guide to help private and public landowners manage habitats to sustain birds as they migrate through the Great Lakes region, particularly around Lake Erie.
- An innovative construction project repairs remaining coastal wetlands, reconnecting Erie Marsh after six decades being separated from the Great Lakes.
- Conservancy scientists recently developed successful models to locate the different types of key stopover sites for landbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl along Lake Erie, and have used it to identify places still in need of protection. The Western Lake Erie Coastal Conservation Vision project is helping The Nature Conservancy and partners identify additional locations to expand and improve migratory bird stopover habitat that also has other conservation and social benefits.
- The Great Lakes migratory bird stopover portal provides information on stopover sites and ecology withing the Great Lakes region to a variety of audiences, including natural resource managers, municipal planners, entities siting energy installations and other infrastructure, and even businesses interested in seeing where migratory bird and the birders they attract might be concentrated. This site also includes case studies of stopover habitat protection that have been completed at two Western Lake Erie Basin sites: Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and DTE Energy River Rouge Power Plant. These case studies illustrate results of conservation projects and how the protection was accomplished.
- 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. Learn more about our Migratory Bird Program.
- At just over 1000 acres, The Nature Conservancy’s Kitty Todd Nature 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.