It is May in Ohio as several different birds can be seen flying over the state to nest in the far northern regions of Canada. Just as the wildflowers bloom and birdwatchers flock to places such as Magee Marsh, the ideal place to watch migratory birds before they make the long journey over Lake Erie, Spring has enveloped the marsh as well as the rest of the state. By the time they land in Ohio the birds will have already flew hundreds if not thousands of miles. Some come from as far away as South America. To the people who have created a bird-friendly backyard goes the pleasure of seeing some these uncommon birds during their migration period.
These uncommon migratory birds include Red-throated Loon, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Pipit, and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The Sandhill Crane waterbird is a rare sight in Ohio and can only be seen up north. All cranes are endangered to some degree with the Sandhill being somewhat less threatened. It spends the summer in Canada where it builds its nest. Then for winter it migrates to southern United States, only coming through Ohio very rarely to wade in the wetlands. It is in the more temperate climates that it faces the greatest threat.
The Red-throated Loon is also a waterbird and even more rare then the crane. It spends summer up in the far Arctic reaches and migrates not that far from its northern lands. It can be seen frequently around the Great lakes where it often captures fish by surface diving. As for nesting, the ground is where it builds a mossy nest along with bogs and wetlands. The Red-throated Loon typically lays 1 to 3 freckled eggs that are capable of swimming within 24 hours after hatching. The small and stocky Black-crowned Night Heron is also a waterbird that breeds in the Ohio summer in wetlands. It often nests in the same tree with other herons and doesn’t seem to distinguish between its own young and the other heron’s young. It stalks the water for fish, which the Black-crowned Night Heron grabs with a long beak.
A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is a small dark yellow bird that can sometimes be seen in an Ohio backyard during its migration season. This tiny bird can easily catch insects in mid-air and gives a flight song as the sun rises. Its mossy nest is built on the ground in boreal coniferous forests and wetlands. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is another small bird that lives off insects in its coniferous forests. In Ohio it can only be seen during winter time. As for nesting, they generally reuse pre-existing tree holes with females picking the site though sometimes males widen the holes. They may also build their woody nest in a nest box. They can live up to seven years-old.
American Pipit is a small brown bird that can be seen all over North America, however its only seen in most of the United States and Canada during migration season. It spends the Summer in far northern Canada and winter in southern United States and Mexico. In the tundra it builds its grassy nest in marches and fields where it will lay 3 to 7 eggs. When hatched the tiny birds are completely dependent upon the parent. The slightly larger Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is also only seen in Ohio during migration season. As its name implies it probes tree holes for sap to eat. And the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker uses human-made materials for its nest construction in forests. Along with sap, its diet consists of insects and fruit. If you have woods near your yard you’ve probably seen this bird.
Most of these birds aren’t too endangered except for the Sandhill Crane. When migrating through Ohio they generally stop for a rest break and capture some food for the long journey ahead. Most of these birds stop in northwestern Ohio as it has the greatest number of wetlands such as Magee marsh and Toledo’s Oak Opening. There are many protected nature preserves in northwest Ohio that feature all of the necessities a bird needs when migrating. Some of the birds can be attracted to your backyard if you set up the appropriate habitat. Multiple well-stocked bird-feeders with seeds such as sunflower, suet, raisins, corn, millet, flax seeds, peanuts, or safflower seeds are all good for birds to eat. You can also get creative and put out things like popcorn, bread, or make your own special treats with fruit and nuts.