2022 Best of Lake Erie: Bird Watching

Get the scoop on the best spots to connect with nature in Ohio and Michigan.

Bird Watcher’s Paradise: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area
For more than a century, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area has been a bird watcher’s paradise, renowned for its diverse array of wildlife, including the many waterfowl, waterbirds, songbirds and shorebirds inhabiting the wetlands. During spring and fall migrations, more than 300 species of birds have been spotted here. Autumn brings thousands of Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, gadwall and green-winged teal. Spring means flights of swans, sandhill cranes and shorebirds. The area’s forested beach ridge provides a vital respite for more than 150 species of migrating songbirds. Northwest Ohio’s fame as the “Warbler Capital of the World” is celebrated every spring at Magee Marsh during the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” a 10-day festival for beginning and seasoned birders alike featuring guided birding trips, birding identification workshops and a birder’s marketplace. 

“Magee Marsh and the surrounding properties dotting the Lake Erie shoreline act as stopover sites, providing a critical habitat for countless migrating birds moving through the area,” says avid birder Meredith Gilbert, publications editor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. “Birding at Magee in the spring is truly a sight to see, with flurries of warblers and other songbirds in every direction. Birders can experience unparalleled close-up views of many hard-to-find rarities and be dazzled by the sheer number and variety of species.”
Oak Harbor, Ohio, 419-898-0960, wildohio.gov

Oasis of Wildlife: Middle Bass Island Forested Wetland Preserve
Comprising more than 40 acres of Lake Erie swamp forest, Ohio’s Middle Bass Island Forested Wetland Preserve is a prime habitat for migrating fall warblers and nesting yellow warblers. Fall color abounds with blooming asters, goldenrod and great blue lobelia, while the mature forest and vernal pools beyond are home to wood ducks and great-horned owls and provide sanctuary for migrating thrushes. Nesting boxes provide homes for house wrens and black-capped chickadees. “Fall is a wonderful time to visit this preserve,” says Lisa Brohl, CEO of the Put-in-Bay Township Park District, which owns the preserve. “I’ve seen large numbers of hermit thrushes, and often catch glimpses of great-horned owls.”
Middle Bass Island, Lake Erie Islands, 419-366-2087, lakeerieislandsconservancy.org

Wild Wetland: Pointe Mouillee State Game Area
Located at the mouth of the Huron River that borders Lake Erie, Michigan’s Pointe Mouillee State Game Area wetland is the premier place to spot waterbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds. One of the Great Lakes’ top shorebird stopovers, the impressive diversity includes tundra swans, redheads and other migrants. Rockwood, Michigan, 734-379-9692, michigantrailmaps.com