15 Outstanding Birds of Ohio

Birds of Ohio
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Birds of Ohio: Ohio state is unique. A very long time ago, it used to be covered by a vast glacier, and melting ice has contributed significantly to its current landscape.

At present, Ohio has five distinct geographical regions – from Lake and Till Plains to Appalachian Plateau and Bluegrass Region. Each area has its own specifics. A great variety of birds call those different areas home.

An ardent birdwatcher can find here many exotic bird species, both striking and rare.

Here are the 15 most interesting Ohio feathered residents.

Birds of Ohio

1. Northern Cardinal (State Bird of Ohio)

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Cardinalidae Cardinalis Cardinalis cardinalis

Northern CardinalThis bird is one of the most beloved birds in America, and also one of the most recognizable.

  • The Northern Cardinal is about the size of a robin or slightly more prominent. This bird has a typically short and large bill, a crest on the head, and a long tail.
  • Male cardinals are memorable – they are bright red with a triangular crest.
  • The only spot of other colors is the black mask around the bill. The females of the species are a pale brown with reddish tinges on the tail, wings, and chest.
  • The bill of the female cardinals is orange with a mix of red.
  • The cardinal also has a typical posture – it sits as if it is hunched over, and the tail is pointed down.
Where can you spot Northern Cardinals in Ohio?

Bird WatchingNorthern cardinals can be spotted all around Ohio around forested areas or evergreen trees in winter.

Interesting Facts about Northern Cardinals

  • The Northern cardinal is a state bird of Ohio.
  • The cardinal is a songbird. Its calls are short and metallic.
  • A northern cardinal prefers to nest in tangled shrubs and bushes.
  • These red birds of Ohio can charge into glass windows, thinking their reflection an “enemy bird“.
  • The cardinals can raise two broods a year.

2. Chestnut-sided warbler

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Parulidae Setophaga Setophaga pensylvanica
Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Source: Wikimedia)
This next Ohio bird is a small, stocky warbler with an unusual color pattern, a stout bill, and a long tail.

  • Male chestnut-sided warblers have a yellow crown, a black mask around the bill, and white cheeks.
  • The wings of this warbler are chestnut-colored with stripes, similar to in pattern to a common sparrow.
  • The female birds do not have a black mask and are less brightly colored.
Where can you spot Chestnut-sided warblers in Ohio?

Bird WatchingOne of the best places to find this warbler is at the Ohio “warbler Mecca” – Magee Marsh.

Source: “Birding Magee Marsh”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Chestnut-sided Warblers

  • These birds of Ohio often crash with glass and communication towers during migrations;
  • The chestnut-sided warbler is relatively rare because it needs young shrubs for nesting. Such shrubs usually grow after forest fires, logging, or heavy storms.
  • The male warbler has two types of songs: one is sung during the breeding season, and another closer to nesting.
  • These birds mainly eat insects that reside on the underside of leaves.
  • Several warblers make a “bouquet” or a “confusion” of warblers.

3. Bobolink

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Icteridae Dolichonyx Dolichonyx oryzivorus

BobolinkBobolink is a very striking grassland Ohio bird.

  • The coloring of the male bobolinks is quite memorable: the overall body is black, with a white hood and rump.
  • The females are yellow-brown with stripes. The underparts of the female bobolink are buff-colored.
  • This bird is migratory, spending the breeding season in Ohio, as well as other northern United States and southern Canada.
  • Bobolinks migrate to Central and South America for the winter.
Where can you spot Bobolinks in Ohio?

Bird WatchingBobolinks are considered to be a species of concern in Ohio. One of the most significant nesting areas for this bird is located in South Russell Park, Geauga County, Ohio.

Source: “Bird-Enthusiasts Band Together In Search of Bobolinks | Geauga County Maple Leaf”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Bobolinks

  • Bobolinks are sometimes referred to as “skunk birds“.
  • The male bobolinks molt before the winter migration, acquiring brown and yellow coloring similar to females.
  • These migratory birds of Ohio are primarily insectivorous, yet can be seen feeding on rice fields.
  • Bobolinks form “harems“: each male may have up to 4 females nesting on their territory..
  • The name “bobolink” reflects its bubbling-like songs.

4. Summer tanager

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Cardinalidae Piranga Piranga rubra

Summer TanagerThis bird of Ohio is the most widespread tanager in the US. A summer tanager is brightly colored and small in size.

  • The bill of this bird is short and blunt. The male tanagers have a strawberry red plumage.
  • There may be black tips on the primary wing feathers, and a touch of gray on wingtips and tail tips.
  • The females of this species are colored differently: yellow with a pinkish bill.
  • Immature males have a mix of yellow and red in their coloring. Both sexes have a slightly raised crest on the head.
Where can you spot Summer Tanagers in Ohio?

Bird WatchingTanagers prefer to stay at the edge of open mixed forests. In Ohio, one of the sites where this bird was spotted in the Oak Openings Metropark, Toledo Area.

Summer tanagers were seen in this region for several summers in a row.

Source: “Outdoor: Summer tanager popular sighting in area | Outdoors | crescent-news.com”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Summer Tanagers

  • Summer tanagers can sit still on branches for long periods.
  • There are two subspecies: the eastern subspecies that are smaller in size, and the western subspecies that is bigger, with a paler coloring.
  • A summer tanager is a songbird, with a variety of songs used in flight and communication.
  • Summer tanagers are solitary and form pairs only during the breeding season.
  • Summer tanagers can eat stinging insects, such as bees and wasps.
Suggested Reading: 25 Most Colorful Birds

5. American woodcock

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Charadriiformes Scolopacidae Scolopax Scolopax minor
American Woodcock
American Woodcock (Source: flickr.com)
An American woodcock is a shorebird of Ohio.

  • This woodcock is small, with a short neck and short legs. The wings of the American woodcock are broad and rounded.
  • American woodcocks have an outstanding long, thin bill. The coloring of the upper parts in this bird is mottled brown and russet.
  • The underparts are cinnamon-colored. There is also a grey color around the throat.
Where can you spot American Woodcocks in Ohio?

Bird WatchingDelaware Bay is one of the best locations to meet this unique shorebird.

Source: “The American Woodcock – Discover Delaware Bay”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about American Woodcocks

  • The American woodcock has a lot of folk names, such as timberdoodle or night partridge.
  • American woodcocks tend to rock back and forth when walking;
  • American woodcocks have their specific display for attracting female birds that they perform on summer nights.
  • The cerebellum of the American woodcock is located under the rest of the brain, while in other birds it is located at the rear of the skull;
  • The main dish on the American woodcock’s menu is the earthworm.

6. Swamp sparrow

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Emberizidae Melospiza Melospiza georgiana

Swamp SparrowThis bird of Ohio is a species of sparrow that prefers to live in wetlands.

  • A swamp sparrow is medium-sized and has a rounded tail.
  • The face of the swamp sparrow is grey, and there is a rusty brown cap on the head.
  • There is a black stripe near the eye. The back and wings of the swamp sparrow are reddish-brown with black stripes.
  • The chest of the swamp sparrow is brown washed with grey. The bill of the swamp sparrow is conical, yellow at the base.
  • These sparrows have unusually long legs, which is uncommon among sparrows.
Where can you spot Swamp Sparrows in Ohio?

Bird WatchingIf you want to see a swamp sparrow for yourself, some of the right spots to do so are Pickerington Ponds and Lake Erie Bluffs.

Source: “Pickerington Ponds | Audubon Important Bird Areas”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
Source: “Sparrow Sightings | Lake Metroparks”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Swamp Sparrows

  • Swamp sparrows search for food near the water’s edge.
  • Swamp sparrows are migratory and can be seen in parks and weedy fields during their travels.
  • Swamp sparrows can catch small invertebrates underwater.
  • When disturbed, a swamp sparrow would run, like a mouse, instead of flying away.
  • Their nests are often built near water and can be destroyed during flooding.

7. ‘Annas hummingbird

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Apodiformes Trochilidae Calypte Calypte anna

Annas HummingbirdThis Ohio hummingbird is not seen as frequently in some regions of the United States compared to the rufous hummingbird and ruby-chested hummingbird.

  • It is stockier than most hummingbirds and has a long, straight black bill.
  • Adult males of the species have a rose-colored throat and crown, the lower body is iridescent grey and may look green dependent on lighting.
  • Females are also green, but their feathers have different shades: the upper parts have metallic green plumage, while the lower parts are grayish-green.
  • Females also may have longer billed than males.
  • The tail of this hummingbird is broad, which is also unusual in this group of birds.
Where can you spot Anna's hummingbirds in Ohio?

Bird WatchingAnna’s hummingbirds can often be spotted around feeders across the country. In Ohio, they are reported to be seen around Miami County.

Source: “2nd-ever Anna's hummingbird found in Ohio this winter – Entertainment & Life – The Columbus Dispatch – Columbus, OH”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Anna’s Hummingbirds

  • Anna’s hummingbirds often come to parks and yards to feed.
  • For the last two decades, Anna’s hummingbirds tend to winter in the United States instead of going to Mexico and Central America.
  • Anna’s hummingbird is one of the only two native species that can feed on blue eucalyptus flowers.
  • These hummingbirds are highly territorial and actively defend their food sources (hummingbird feeders, for example).
  • Anna’s hummingbirds depend on feeders with sucrose in winter, so it is good to hang multiple feeders in the areas where they are spotted.

8. Northern Harrier

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia accipitriformes Accipitridae Circus Circus cyaneus

Northern HarrierThis next bird is a medium-sized raptor from Ohio with a slender build and broad wings.

  • Both wings and tail of the northern harrier are long. The tail of the northern harrier has a characteristic white patch on its rump.
  • Male and female birds have different coloring. Adult males are grey with stripes and black tips on the wings.
  • The immature male birds, as well as females, are brown above and pale cream below.
  • During the flight, it makes a “V shape” with its wings. The face of the northern harrier may resemble that of an owl at a certain angle.
Where can you spot Northern Harriers in Ohio?

Bird WatchingNorthern Harriers can be spotted in Northeastern Ohio; some sightings were also reported in Pickaway Plains in Central Ohio.

Source: “Ohio birds of prey: From eagles to owls, falcons to hawks; identifying the state's raptors (photos) – cleveland.com”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Northern Harriers

  • This bid is the only species of harriers in North America.
  • This raptor is slowly disappearing from its previous nesting areas.
  • The male northern harriers help out the female birds with feeding the young.
  • Northern harriers often nest in colonies, and one male may have two or more females.
  • Northern harriers make their nests on the ground, often in marshland.

9. Indigo bunting

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Cardinalidae Passerina Passerina cyanea

Indigo BuntingAn indigo bunting is a small and memorable songbird of Ohio.

  • This bird of Ohio is stocky, with a short, conical bill, and small head crest. Dependent on lighting, the feathers of male indigo buntings look entirely blue.
  • The females and immature males are various shades of brown – darker on the back and wings, and light brown with specks on the chest.
  • Some immature males may have blue patches among brown feathers. Indigo buntings have their lively song with high pitched notes.
Where can you spot Indigo bunting in Ohio?

Bird WatchingIf you want to search for a glimpse of this beautiful bird, please note that there were confirmed sightings of the indigo buntings at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Source: “Cuyahoga Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service)”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Indigo Buntings

  • The feathers of the male indigo bunting are iridescent: in bright sunlight, they look blue, while in different lighting, the birds would look completely black.
  • Indigo bunting males like to sing while perching on branches or telephone lines and swish their tails.
  • Indigo buntings are solitary birds and form flocks only during migrations.
  • Indigo buntings can be found in places where woods meet open areas or at the roadside.
  • Indigo buntings were used in an experiment that has shown that the birds use multiple stars to orient themselves during migrations from Central America to North America.

10. Pied-billed Grebe

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Podicipediformes Podicipedidae Podilymbus Podilymbus podiceps
Pied-Billed Grebe
Pied-Billed Grebe (Source: fr.wikipedia.org)
The next bird of Ohio is a small waterbird with a chunky body.

  • The bill is short and thick. During the breeding season, the bill of this species gets a distinct black stripe.
  • The head of the pied-billed grebe is broad and roundish. These grebes have almost no tail.
  • Juvenile piled-billed grebes can be recognized by striped faces. These birds have an overall brown coloring that may get darker during the breeding season.
  • The pied-billed grebe has lobed feet, unlike ducks that have webbed feet.
Where can you spot Pied-billed Grebes in Ohio?

Bird WatchingPied-billed grebes mainly breed and feed in wetlands, including marshlands around the Lake Erie area.

Source: “Birding | Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Pied-billed Grebes

  • The stripe on the bill appears only during the breeding season. At other times it is absent. The breeding birds also acquire a black-colored throat temporarily.
  • These Ohio waterbirds can be loud and make different kinds of noises during breeding season: toots, barks, and grunts.
  • The pied-billed grebes can submerge fully underwater and even swim underwater in order to escape danger.
  • The pied-billed grebes can change their buoyancy with the help of the head movements.
  • Half of the stomach contents of this grebe consists of its feathers – they protect the intestine from sharp and uneatable objects.

11. Yellow-billed cuckoo

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cuculiformes Cuculidae Coccyzus Coccyzus americanus
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (Source: flickr.com)
This next bird is a relatively large bird of Ohio, between a robin and a crow.

  • These large birds of Ohio have long, slim bodies. The bill of this cuckoo is almost as long as the head, with a slight down curve.
  • The lower part of the bill is yellow. The head is flat. Overall, coloring is brown, with rusty patches on the wings.
  • The chest is grayish or white. The underside of the long tail has multiple white patches.
  • The yellow-billed cuckoo has a blackish mask around the bill and the yellow eyering.
Where can you spot Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Ohio?

Bird WatchingAccording to recent surveys, yellow-billed cuckoos can be predominantly spotted in the Till Plain, Unglaciated Plateau, and Illinoian Till Plain regions in Ohio.

Source: “Yellow-billed Cuckoo” – Ohio birds. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Yellow-billed Cuckoos

  • The yellow-billed cuckoo likes to hunt for large, hairy caterpillars.
  • The populations of this species are in decline, especially in the Western United States, and are limited to cottonwood forests.
  • The yellow-billed cuckoos are known to migrate over the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The yellow-billed cuckoos are essential in fighting outbreaks of tent caterpillars.
  • This species of cuckoo can raise their own young, but can also put their eggs into the nests of 11 other bird species.

12. Sora

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Gruiformes Rallidae Porzana Porzana carolina
Sora Bird
Sora Bird (Source: Wikimedia)
Otherwise known as a sora rail or sora crake, this is a small brown water bird of Ohio with long legs and long toes.

  • This Ohio bird is rarely seen and mainly lives in freshwater marshes.
  • It has a plump body and a short, bright yellow bill.
  • The upperparts are mottled brown.
  • The face and chest are greys.
  • There is a black mask around the bill. The tail of the sora is very short.
Where can you spot Soras in Ohio?

Bird WatchingSora birds can be spotted around Lake St. Clair, including St. Clair Flats.

Source: “Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair Handbook – Google Books”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Sora Birds

  • The nests of the sora are made of marsh vegetation and look like cups.
  • The sora birds can eat both plant and animal food.
  • The sora has a loud call that can be often heard at dawn.
  • Despite looking like weak fliers, the soras are capable of long-distance migrations.
  • The sora rail may be seen around rice fields, may feed heavily on wild rice in anticipation of the migration period.

13. Common Grackle

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Icteridae Quiscalus Quiscalus quiscula

Common GrackleThe common grackle is the largest blackbird in Ohio.

  • It is a bit larger than a common blackbird and has glossy iridescent feathers with a metallic sheen.
  • The head of the common grackle is purple and the body bronze.
  • The grackle has a stout, broad bill, and a spoon-shaped tail.
  • The females have paler coloring and also possess yellowish eyes.
Where can you spot Common Grackles in Ohio?

Bird WatchingCommon Grackles tend to nest near humans and were noted to be shared in several counties, including Hocking, Athens, and Washington Counties.

Source: “Common Grackle” – Ohio birds. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Common Grackles

  • The common grackle often forms flocks together with cowbirds and blackbirds.
  • This bird is widespread, and the only area it is not found in the dense forest.
  • There were cases of full and partial albinism recorded among these birds.
  • The grackles attack any intruders together with their neighbors and can be quite vicious while defending a nest.
  • Parts of the grackle’s bills are hard and are used primarily for cracking acorns.

14. American redstart

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Parulidae Setophaga

American RedstartThe next Ohio birds on our list is an American redstart. It is a warbler of medium size with a flat, broad bill.

  • It has a roundish body with a long tail.
  • Males are mostly black with bright patches of orange color on the wings, tail, and sides.
  • The females have an olive back and yellow patches in the same areas as males.
  • The head of the female American redstart is grey, and the chest is whitish.
Where can you spot American redstarts in Ohio?

Bird WatchingAmerican redstarts can be seen in Headland Beach State Park during the migration season.

Source: “Northern Wheatear in Cleveland | The Birding Place”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about American Redstarts

  • American redstarts are very active birds and seem to be always moving and catching insects;
  • American redstarts have their song that consists of a series of high notes.
  • During courtship, the male proposes the potential female sites for nests, and the female chooses the male that selects the best area.
  • American redstarts use their wings and tail to flush insects living in the trees.
  • Parasitic cowbirds, as well as raptors such as hawks, pose a considerable threat to these birds.

15. Eastern screech owl

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Megascops Megascops asio

Eastern Screech-OwlThis owl species is stocky and small made into our top birds of Ohio list.

  • It has a large head with an almost invisible neck.
  • The coloring is varied and can be either gray or rusty/reddish brown.
  • These birds have a typical camouflage pattern. The eastern screech owls have yellow eyes.
  • There are short, prominent ear-tufts. These owls have grey-green bills.
Where can you spot Eastern Screech-owls in Ohio?

Bird WatchingEastern screech-owls can be found in the Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, Central Ohio.

Source: “Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Eastern Screech owls

  • In case of a threat, the eastern screech owl stretches its body and tightens its feathers in order to look like a branch.
  • There are two morphs in these species: grey-phase and red-phase birds.
  • These owls have a distinct whistling call and often respond to imitations.
  • Eastern screech owls can use nest boxes for ducks if they cannot find a suitable tree cavity.
  • The younger screech owls can be killed by larger owl species.

Many Ohio birds are quite shy and are rarely seen – but that does not mean that they are not crucial for the ecosystems they call home.

Habitat destruction, hunting cats, and overall human activity has much impact on their lives and the lives of all the living beings connected to them.

Hanging hummingbird feeders, building nest boxes, as well as keeping your cats at home can be of great help to many migrating and small species.

Cite this article as: "15 Outstanding Birds of Ohio," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, October 19, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/birds-of-ohio.html/.

Key References

  • “Ice Age Ohio – Ohio History Central”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis – NatureWorks”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Ohio State Bird | Northern Cardinal”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Chestnut-sided Warbler | American Bird Conservancy”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “May 17th – A Bouquet of Warblers & The Saga of Tim | Ruthven Park Nature Blog”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “The Bobolink Project | Why Bobolinks?”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Bobolink | The Holden Arboretum”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “LCR MSCP – Covered Species – Birds – Summer Tanager”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Outdoor: Summer tanager popular sighting in area | Outdoors | crescent-news.com”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Woodcock Facts – RGS”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Swamp Sparrow “Melospiza georgiana” | Boreal Songbird Initiative”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “swamp sparrow scientific name – Google Search”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Anna’s Hummingbird: Our winter hummingbird – BirdWatching”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Northern Harrier | Hawk Mountain Sanctuary: Raptor Conservation, Education, Observation & Research”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Ohio Birds and Biodiversity: Northern harrier, hunting voles”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Indigo Bunting “Passerina cyanea” | Boreal Songbird Initiative”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Pied-billed Grebe >> Bird Watcher’s Digest”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “The small pied-billed grebe is a migrating bird with skills” – Post Register. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Birds, Endangered Species Accounts | Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Sora (Crake) aka Sora Rail or Sora Crake | Beauty of Birds”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula | Wildlife Journal Junior”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Species Profile: American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) | Rainforest Alliance”. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.
  • “Eastern Screech-Owl” – Otus asio. Accessed October 19, 2019. Link.

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