CLEVELAND — While all seems quiet during the winter season in Ohio, some birds are making noise as they thrive in the cold, long winter months. As some species of birds migrate south for the winter, some of Ohio’s resident birds like northern cardinals, screech owls and woodpeckers stay put and give wildlife enthusiasts a must-watch show.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says there are five species that should not be missed this winter season.
1. Sandhill cranes
Reliably found in areas with large spaces of wetland habitats, particularly in the Lake Erie marsh region, the numbers of wading sandhill cranes are increasing in Ohio. They are normally heard before they are seen. Sandhill cranes fly with their necks stretched out and feet trailing behind. An adult bird with a red crown is a key feature to differentiates it from a similarly sized and colored great blue heron.
- LaDue Public Hunting Area in Geauga and Portage counties
- Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area in Wayne and Ashland counties
- Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area in Holmes and Wayne counties
2. Tundra swans
The highly migratory tundra swans migrate to Ohio in the fall and are found in open marshes, lakes and flood fields, where they are in mixed flocks with trumpeter swans. ODNR said differentiating swans from trumpeter swans can sometimes be a challenge. Bird watchers can identify a tundra swan by its smaller size to the trumpeter swan and the yellow spot on the base of a black bill.
3. Snowy owls
Considered one of the most sought-after birds during Ohio’s winter, snowy owls are easy to identify with their yellow cat-like eyes and snow-white body. They usually spend most of the year in the arctic tundra but will arrive at the shores of Lake Erie in the winter. The number of snowy owls in Ohio depends on the availability of their prey, the small rodent called a lemming. The public can see them in open fields and along rocky shorelines.
- Burke Lakefront Airport
- Lake Erie shorelines
- Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area
4. Short-eared owls
Known as one of the few owls that are active during the day, short-eared owls are primarily winter visitors from the north. They often give the impression of a giant moth because of deep wing beats and unhurried flight. These owls are found hunting over large grasslands and marsh areas.
- Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Wyandot and Marion counties
- Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area in Guernsey, Noble, Morgan and Muskingum counties
5. Bald eagle
The presence of this iconic bird always drums up excitement on the ground. Eagles can be seen building their nests in winter and incubating eggs by late February.
- Pinery Narrows area north of Station Road Bridge Trailhead in Brecksville
- Redwood Elementary in Avon Lake
- Along Ohio’s rivers
If you decide to venture out to see birds, taking a good pair of binoculars, or even better, a spotting scope to magnify large birds, is a must.
"Being able to truly appreciate birds’ physical attributes that would not otherwise be seen with the naked eye will open the door to new and exciting experiences," ODNR says.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife also has a Common Birds of Ohio Fieldbook that's helpful. Click here to access it.
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