Owl at Killdeer Plains and Ken Kaufmann (inset)
Travel

3 Great Ohio Birding Spots

Author and Oak Harbor resident Kenn Kaufman shares a few of his favorite locations throughout the state.

From majestic eagles to colorful warblers migrating north from the tropics, Ohio is filled with places to find and watch a wide variety of birds. We asked Kenn Kaufman, world-renowned birding expert and author of several field guides and books on birding and nature, to share some of his favorite Buckeye State birding spots. “These are all places where you can have good birding any day of the year,” he says. 

Hocking Hills State Park & Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve: The diverse habitat of the Hocking Hills draws a combination of northern and southern species, Kaufman says. The blue-headed vireo and Canada warbler nest in this unique area for the summer instead of continuing north to Canada with their counterparts in the spring. “To me it’s really exciting you can find all these northern birds,” Kaufman says. “The area is at its most special in the summer.”

Big Island Wildlife Area & Killdeer Plains: Most birders visit these two state wildlife areas near Marion in a single outing, Kaufman says. He likes these sites best in winter because they have plenty of pasture and wood lots that are excellent spots to find northern harriers, short-eared owls and rough-legged hawks. “If I’m there in the afternoon [during winter], I usually stay into the evening to see short-eared owls,” Kaufman says. Killdeer Plains is also a winter spot to see the northern shrike, a predatory songbird that eats rodents.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area & Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge: Located next to each other along Lake Erie just north of Oak Harbor, these marshes and wooded areas are critical habitat for migratory and resident birds. “The real attraction is the migration season,” Kaufman says. “Magee and Ottawa are world famous for the concentrations of migrant birds. ... You can go talk to active birders in South Africa or the Netherlands or Australia, and they’ve heard of Magee Marsh.”

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