Top Places To Birdwatch in Ohio – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

December 29, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding In Ohio

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Anyone living in Ohio and particularly the northwestern portion of Ohio knows that this area of the country is considered the warbler capital of the world. Even more exciting, during the spring they host a huge festival and birding event known as “The Biggest Week in American Birding.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a particularly big fan of this exciting boast. Why? Ohio backs up this claim by being one of the biggest and best places to visit to take advantage of wonderful bird watching opportunities. Migrating birds come to Ohio and especially Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in droves and great numbers, which makes it easy to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and other bird species that tend to flock to the area.

Besides the amazing birding opportunities, I also want my readers to know that there are numerous exciting bird watching clubs to join in the Buckeye State. These clubs do so many extraordinary things for the birding community, the environment, and the natural habitats located throughout the state of Ohio.

Besides the occasional local birdwatching club, you’ll also discover a number of active chapters of the National Audubon Society as well. This exciting organization focuses on birdwatching, conservation, habitat protection and renewal, education, and so much more.

Even more important, these wonderful bird watching clubs regularly get together to experience events as a group and go on weekly or monthly bird watching field trips and visit local habitats and protected areas to enjoy the sights and sounds of their favorite birds.

Please keep reading to find out more about the top free and paid bird-watching destinations in the Birthplace of Aviation better known as Ohio. For even more resources about bird watching hotspots in surrounding states, please check out: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan.

Bird Watching Destinations in Ohio: Free Destinations

It doesn’t matter if you live in Ohio or you just plan to visit in the near future, because the best free bird watching destinations in the Buckeye State are open and available to everyone. And best of all? Today, I plan to fill you in on the top destinations in the area that are completely free or only charge a minimal parking fee. 

Otherwise, these beautiful locations are the perfect destination for those looking to enjoy the company of birds. I’ll also share information about hiking trails and other pertinent information as well.

To discover these free locations and more, please pay attention to the information shared below.

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area – Free Admission

Although first acquired in 1952, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources continues to add to the land. They made their final land purchase in 2007. The wildlife area now encompasses 9054 acres of land. It’s situated just 3 miles southwest of Harpster and the property covers Marion and Wyandot counties.

Birdwatchers tend to really appreciate this place because it’s filled with a wide array of owls, raptors, and other exciting and beautiful birds.

Location:

19100 County Hwy. 115
Harpster, OH 43323

Phone: 419-424-5000

GPS: 40.7216° N, 83.2994° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife area in Killdeer Plains is open daily to the public and it’s open 365 days per year. Visitors are allowed to enter the park a half an hour before sunrise and they are expected to leave a half an hour after sunset.

  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Lapland Longspur
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Northern Harrier
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Northern Shrike
  • Wild Turkey
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Bald Eagle

Hiking Trails:

Although I had a difficult time finding the names and other pertinent details of hiking trails in Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, I was capable of discovering two nice and easy trails just a few miles away in Upper Sandusky. These trails are exactly what you’re looking for and they are located right along the reservoir, so you’ll have the opportunity to view birds and other wildlife in the gorgeous forested area.

With that said, the names and other important information about these hiking trails include the following:

  • Sandusky River Stepping Stone Trail – this particular trail is very easy to navigate and the path is very clear, so you will not have to deal with unwanted obstacles getting in the way of your path. It’s a 1.8-mile trail from beginning to end, which a person walking at an average speed should have no trouble completing in 45 minutes.
  • Upper Sandusky Reservoir Trail – this trail located along the Upper Sandusky Reservoir is also really easy to navigate and they do an excellent job of maintaining the area, so hikers will not stumble upon difficult terrain or unwanted obstacles marring their path. The total length of the trail is 3.3 miles, so it’s nearly twice as long as the previously mentioned trail. A person walking at an average pace should have no problem finishing this trail from one end to the other in one hour and 25 minutes.

Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area – Free Entrance and Wildlife Viewing

Visitors love spending time in Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area because it’s located along Lake Erie, and it’s actually one of the best places to go because it’s a top birding site in the area. Plus, it’s only 15 miles away from Toledo in the East and it’s easy to get to via Highway 2.

Even more importantly, the area has lots of birds and other wildlife for visitors to experience and appreciate. You’ll have a great time seeing your favorite birds at all times during the year.

Location:

Bono Road
Curtice, OH 43412

Phone: 419-424-5000

GPS: 41.6408° N, 83.2466° W

Hours Of Operation:

This wildlife area is state land and so you can visit at any time during the day or night because it’s open 24 hours a day. It’s also open seven days a week and 365 days a year. You can even visit on holidays if you prefer, but more than likely no one else will be around!

  • Common Gallinule
  • Great Egret
  • Bald Eagle
  • Caspian Tern
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Least Bittern
  • Snowy Egret
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Marsh Wren
  • Common Tern
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Virginia Rail
  • Sandhill Crane

Hiking Trails:

Unfortunately, I am not capable of locating specific hiking trail information in Metzger Marsh. But I do know that it exists because you can see the trails in the video shared above and, on their website, they say wildlife viewing, waterfowl hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, and other outdoor activities are very popular in the area.

So, if you decide to visit this hotspot of birding bliss, please know that there will be plenty of hiking opportunities available to you. You will be able to spend time outdoors viewing your favorite birds in their natural habitat.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area – Free Admission, Donations Welcome

This Lake Erie birdwatching hotspot has achieved legendary status. During the spring migration, it’s one of the most beautiful bird watching locations to visit anywhere in the United States. It even has a boardwalk for birders, where they can walk along and check out the migrating warblers and a great variety of other birds. Plus, each May they have a festival celebrating the seasonal abundance of avian creatures in the area.

Location:

13229 W. State Route 2
Oak Harbor, OH 43449

Phone: 419-898-0960

GPS: 41.6155° N, 83.1629° W

Hours Of Operation:

The great thing about Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is the boardwalk bird trail and the entirety of the wildlife area remains open all year around. You are allowed to enter the park at dawn and you must leave the park at dusk. There are restricted hours that apply for controlled waterfowl hunts from early October to early December.

Sportsman’s Migratory Bird Center

  • Open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM
  • Open Saturday and Sunday from 8 AM to 3 PM – spring and summer only
  • Extended hours – Saturdays in April and May from 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Marsh Wren
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Wood Duck
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Bald Eagle
  • Ring-Necked Duck
  • Blue-Winged Teal
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Red Breasted Merganser
  • Northern Shrike
  • Short-Eared Owl

Hiking Trails:

One of the best things about Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is the amazing network of boardwalks that they have going throughout the area. It takes you directly into the woods and gives birdwatchers easy access to nature without having to walk along dirty and unkempt trails. You’ll absolutely love walking along the boardwalk while seeing all of your favorite migratory bird species in one easy to access location.

The name of this hiking trail and other important information include:

  • Magee Marsh Boardwalk Trail – as the name suggests, this particular trail is actually a boardwalk, so it doesn’t get any easier to navigate than this. Just follow the boardwalk path as you walk throughout the wilderness area and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to view your favorite birds. There are even seats along the way that you can stop at to take a rest. The total length of the board walk is 1.2 miles from beginning to end. The average person walking at a relatively moderate pace can complete the entirety of the boardwalk in a half an hour.

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve – Free Park Entrance

Visitors will love spending time in Sheldon Marsh because the State Nature Preserve is made up of 472 acres of protected land and birding habitats scattered along the shoreline of Lake Erie. The preserve has lots of beautiful land including sandy beaches, scrubby fields, marshes, wooded swabs, and hardwood forests. It’s also a wonderful place to go to see many of your favorite waterfowl during the spring, and bald eagles spend the entire year in this wonderful place.

Location:

2715 Cleveland Rd. W.
Huron, OH 44839

Phone: 614-265-6561

GPS: 41.4084° N, 82.6027° W

Hours Of Operation:

This 472-acre nature preserve remains open seven days a week from the hours of 7 AM to 7 PM each day. It’s possible that the hours might be affected on the holidays including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and other federal holidays. Call the phone number shared above to find out about holiday hours if this is a potential issue for you.

  • Virginia Rail
  • Pied-Billed Grebe
  • Bald Eagle
  • Wood Duck
  • Marsh Wren
  • Osprey
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Golden-Winged Warbler
  • Snowy Owl

Hiking Trails:

Like many of the other national parks and top of birding hotspots in Ohio, there’s only one specifically named hiking trail that I can share with you today that also has detailed information listed about the trail. Otherwise, I want you to know that there is plenty of land across the 472 acres for you to walk along and enjoy premium birdwatching and one of the greatest places in the world to see avian creatures in their natural habitat. It’s just that they haven’t shared specific information about the names of the trails and other pertinent details besides the one that I am about to tell you more about now.

The name of this hiking trail and other important information include:

  • Sheldon Marsh Trail – this trail is easy to navigate because a large portion of it is made up of a boardwalk, so you simply have to follow the path laid out for you, so navigation is definitely a cinch. And since it’s a boardwalk trail, there aren’t going to be any obstacles or uneven ground or rocky terrain barring your path. So, a person walking at an average hiking speed should have zero difficulty completing the full length of the trail in 40 minutes. The total length of the trail is 1.6 miles long.

Fernald Preserve – Free Admission to the Park

Oddly enough, Fernald Preserve Used to be a very different place. In fact, the entire area was part of a much larger facility that previously processed materials for nuclear weapons. Now it’s one of the most coveted and popular birding areas throughout the entire state of Ohio and many who love studying nature spend a great deal of time here. It’s 1050 acres long and located roughly 20 miles to the northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Location:

7400 Willey Rd.
Hamilton, OH 45013

Phone: 513-648-3330

GPS: 39.2989° N, 84.6933° W

Hours Of Operation:

The great thing about Fernald Preserve is the area stays open to the public 24/7/365 and it typically remains open on holidays as well. You can enter the park at dawn and you are expected to leave the park at dusk to remain in compliance with the rules and hours of operation.

  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Northern Harrier
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Yellow-Throated Vireo
  • Wild Turkey
  • Blue-Winged Teal
  • Northern Parula
  • American Woodcock

Hiking Trails:

Personally, my favorite thing about Fernald Preserve is that the area has four exciting and easy to navigate hiking trails that consist of more than 7 miles in total. These trails are perfect for beginner, intermediate, and expert hikers looking to experience bird watching outdoors in a natural habitat.

The important details and other info about these trails include:

  • Sycamore Trail – as previously mentioned above, this is an easy trail that’s well-maintained and definitely well-kept without too many rocky outcroppings in the way. It’s somewhat on the longer side coming in at a full 2 ½ miles, so you’re definitely going to have to do some walking if you intend to complete the entire trail from start to finish. If this is the case, you should expect to walk for roughly one hour and five minutes to finish the whole trail.
  • Lodge Pond Trail – this hiking trail is also easy to navigate and well-maintained and when compared to the previous trail, it’s also about a mile shorter, so you’ll have no trouble finishing the whole trail faster if you don’t feel like walking as long. The total length of the trail is 1.4 miles from beginning to end, which the average hiker should finish in roughly 35 minutes.
  • Shingle Oak Trail – out of the four trails that I’m sharing with you today, this easy to navigate trail also happens to be the shortest one. It’s only 1 mile from beginning to and, so it isn’t the longest trail in the world. Because of the length of the trail, people walking at an average pace should be able to complete it in its entirety in 25 minutes.
  • Hickory Trail – and out of the four total trails shared today, this particular one is the longest because it’s nearly 3 miles coming in at 2.9 miles from start to finish. It’s an easy trail that is also well-maintained and it takes you right through the forest, but the path is very clear and there aren’t a lot of felled trees or other obstacles in your way. In total, the entire trail should take one hour and 15 minutes if the person is walking at an average pace.

Bird Watching Destinations in Ohio: Paid Destinations

Birding Ecotours – Paid Ohio Birding Tours

One of my favorite things about Birding Ecotours is its longevity, because the company has actually been around for over 25 years. They tore many different parts of the United States including Ohio. And the company even has birding Tours all over the world including many different areas of the globe. So, if you’re looking to enjoy a birding adventure with other exciting tourists planning to visit Ohio in the near future, this is definitely a great opportunity for you and your loved ones.

The birdwatching tour in Ohio is typically a one-day trip. This includes entrance fees, guide fees, tolls, fuel, and transportation. The regular cost is $450 per person. But if you, with more than one person, each extra individual is only $50 per person after you pay the initial $450 fee. So, it makes sense to come as a group because it will help lower your overall costs.

To request more information about this upcoming birding tour in Ohio, please visit this page to make your request.

Location:

Birding Ecotours, LLC
PO Box 292574
Kettering, OH 45429

Phone: 937-238-0254

Ohio Birdwatching Clubs

The best part about living in Ohio is the wonderful opportunities to get involved in local birding communities and bird watching clubs. Today, I’d like to tell you about a couple of bird watching organizations and clubs that will make it possible to connect with other like-minded people in your community. One is a local birdwatching club and the other is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society.

After looking into each of these clubs, you’ll see that the opportunities to connect with like-minded birders is more than possible. You’ll get involved in education, environmental activities, habitat protection, local wildlife viewing, and so much more. There are regular field trips, monthly meetings, and other fun filled and fantastic opportunities for happy-go-lucky birders like you.

I definitely recommend becoming a member of a local bird watching organization. These clubs are perfect for residents of the Buckeye State who want to meet up with other birdwatchers to help enhance the overall experience. Please look into the organizations that I’m about to share with you below.

Kirtland Bird Club

The KBC is a local birdwatching club based out of The Cleveland Museum Of Natural History. Their overall mission and objective are to study ornithology as seriously as possible while helping individual members increase their bird knowledge. Plus, they focus on recording local bird counts, providing birding related experiences, and they even have a newsletter and promote good fellowship in the community.

This local birdwatching club and organization has monthly meetings that take place on the first Wednesday of each month. They even allow guests to visit, so you can check out their monthly meeting before becoming an annual member if that’s something you’re interested in.

They also go on local field trips, participate in the yearly Christmas bird count, and so much more. You’ll love becoming a member of this group if birdwatching is in your blood.

Contact Info:

Meeting Location
The Cleveland Museum Of Natural History
1 Wade Oval, University Circle
Cleveland, OH 44106

Contact page: https://www.kirtlandbirdclub.org/contact-us.html

Mailing Address

ATTN: Mary Ann Romito
Kirtland Bird Club Treasurer
4310 Bush Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44109

Past and Future Events:

  • Castalia, Ohio Field Trip – this field trip was led by Paul Sherwood on February 15, 2020, prior to the pandemic. They aren’t hosting any active trips at the moment due to the coronavirus. But this trip began at 9 AM on a very cold morning when it was 12°F and it remained freezing cold all day long. Members of the group had the opportunity to visit with lots of their favorite waterfowl and other birds including Bald Eagles, the Trumpeter Swan, the Northern Shoveler, Canada Geese, and hundreds of Horned Larks. The group spent the day in this location and saw 18 different bird species during their visit.
  • Merwin’s Wharf and Scranton Flats – this field trip was led by Erik Bruder and it previously took place on Sunday, January 26, 2020. It consisted of a group of 38 participants, where everyone met up to spend the day together enjoying birdwatching in each other’s company. In total, they discovered 17 different bird species and had the opportunity to observe hundreds of birds throughout the day. It was a very successful field trip that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Membership Fees:

The great thing about Kirtland Bird Club is they make it really easy to become a member or renew your membership. Basically, the quickest and easiest way to get started is to visit this page and follow the on-screen instructions.

You’ll need to print and fill out your membership application, which can be found right here. And if you’d like to learn more about membership benefits, you can do so by reading this document here.

The membership levels and fees are as follows:

  • Student Membership – $10 paid via PayPal
  • Single Membership – $20 paid via PayPal
  • Couple Membership – $30 paid via PayPal

Please fill out your application and mail it into the address mentioned above for the Kirtland Bird Club Treasurer. This is a wonderful organization that you’ll truly appreciate becoming a member of, so I highly recommend signing up at your earliest convenience.

Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society

This organization is all about experiencing, enjoying, and learning about nature. They are a very involved group and provide their members and people in the community access to educational programs, volunteer activities, bird walks, and bird related field trips. They participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count and the Audubon Spring Bird Census among other fun filled activities

Their mission is to provide the public with education about conservation, the natural world, and birding habitats, bird education, and much more. If you’d like to get involved with this local chapter, you can quickly and easily become a member, which I’ll tell you more about below.

Contact Info:

Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society
4310 Bush Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44109

Phone: 216-741-2352

Email: [email protected] 

Past and Future Events:

  • Lakewood Circle Christmas Bird Count – this event this year is being sponsored by Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society and it’s going to take place on Sunday, December 26, 2021. You’ll meet up with birders and friends to become a member of the count circle. This event starts on December 13 at 7 PM with a virtual pre-Christmas Bird Count Kickoff, but the really fun activities are going to take place all day on December 26, right after Christmas. There’s also a virtual wrap up party on January 10, 2022, which takes place at 7 PM on a Monday.
  • December 2021 Members Meeting – this meeting took place on December 7, 2021. The meeting lasted for a half hour, but at 8 o’clock there were guest speakers who shared a program called A Closer Look at the Peregrines of the Rocky River Preservation. This presentation was given by Chad and Chris Saladin, who happen to be peregrine falcon specialists and naturalists. This important talk provided information about the Peregrine recovering story, the history of this beautiful bird, behaviors, specialized features, and much more. It was truly an interesting event to say the least.

Membership Fees:

As you can imagine, the WCAS makes it simple for birding enthusiasts to become new members of the local chapter. In fact, you can learn everything you need to know about becoming a member by visiting this page here.

Members have access to the following:

  • The quarterly newsletter named The Feathered Flyer. This newsletter shares information about events, birdwatching trips, and field trips
  • Window cling with the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society logo
  • Additional online conservation and bird resources
  • Opportunities to volunteer at conservation -related activities in public events

Membership levels include:

  • Student/ Limited Income – $20
  • Individual Membership – $40
  • Nonprofit/Family Membership – $55
  • Business Membership – $150
  • Sustaining Membership – $300
  • Benefactor Membership – $750 

Additional donation opportunities and membership levels can be found here. The only way to sign up for this amazing organization is to do so online. Please follow the on-screen instructions and join this prestigious group today to connect with other birdwatching enthusiasts just like you.

Final Thoughts: Top Ohio Birding Destinations & Clubs

I’m really excited that you took time out of your day to read this information about Ohio birding clubs and free and paid bird-watching destinations. It’s always a pleasure to share this information with our readers. And our goal is to provide the most useful and informative info for everyone to use to enhance their bird watching experience.

It was our pleasure to share this updated information with you right now. I hope you found the local bird walks and field trips related info particularly beneficial. Getting involved with groups is a great way to improve your overall bird watching experience, so give it a try.

Before you go:

Do you know about other Ohio bird watching destinations or local bird watching clubs that we may have missed while sharing these important resources? If so, please fill us in and shoot us a message right immediately to let us know the scoop so we can add it to our list.

Our goal is to remain the top Ohio birding resource on the planet, so please help us as best you can. Thank you!

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