National Trail offers seven nature preserves that provide rich and diverse habitats for resident wildlife as well as appealing rest stops for migratory birds. The below birds have been spotted in National Trail parks. Click each animal to learn more about them and where they have been seen.
Animal descriptions and images courtesy of ODNR Division of Wildlife.
The American crow is a common and widely recognized species that breeds throughout most of the contiguous United States. Clearing of Ohio’s vast forests allowed this native species to increase in number. As a result, crows are more abundant today than in pre-settlement times. Although not a forest species, crows thrive in areas with ample trees for roosting and nesting, and abundant fields for feeding. Crows continue to thrive in Ohio, in spite of intensive land use, modern farming practices, and their nuisance status to many people.
Spotted At: All National Trail Parks
The American kestrel, also often called the sparrow hawk, is the smallest and most numerous falcon in North America. It is a falcon – a family of hawks that have long, pointed wings and are the fastest flying birds alive. There are seven subspecies of kestrels, three of which inhabit the United States. Only one of these subspecies, Falco sparverius sparverius, is found in Ohio. The kestrel population in Ohio grew as the state’s forests were cleared for agricultural uses. Today, it is common to see kestrels hovering and hunting for prey in the grass median between many of the state’s major highways.
Our national symbol, the bald eagle displays many outstanding characteristics – exceptional vision, a striking appearance, and a commanding presence. Sadly, by the later half of the 20th century, the bald eagle was classified as an endangered species. Through the diligent efforts of wildlife biologists and a concerned public, the bald eagle population is coming back and is no longer on the federal endangered species list. Its federal and state status is now delisted but it is still in a federal monitoring stage for five years.
The Baltimore oriole is a small member of the blackbird family. This family probably contains more individuals than any other bird family in Ohio, but includes only a few species. This group of medium-sized, walking birds has very diverse coloration and habits. The bill is long and pointed; the tail is usually rounded.
With sooty black plumage, a bare black head, and neat white stars under the wingtips, Black Vultures are almost dapper. Whereas Turkey Vultures are lanky birds with teetering flight, Black Vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and powerful wingbeats. The two species often associate: the Black Vulture makes up for its poor sense of smell by following Turkey Vultures to carcasses. Highly social birds with fierce family loyalty, Black Vultures share food with relatives, feeding young for months after they’ve fledged.
Spotted At: Old Reid Park
Cedar waxwings are nomadic and very social birds that travel in flocks. These flocks move from place to place throughout the year, except during the breeding season. Waxwings are big fruit consumers, and nomadic flocks often visit ornamental berry trees. They have a habit of passing berries from one bird to the next down a long row sitting on a branch, until one bird eats the food.
Spotted At: Snyder Park
Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized, mostly black-and-white birds, with strong, sharply pointed bills for chiseling and digging into trees. They drill in search of food (insects and larvae) and to excavate nesting cavities. As they climb up tree trunks they use their stiff tails as a brace. Their flight is undulating, with the wings folded against the body after each series of flaps. These climbers have strong feet, with two toes forward and two backward.
Spotted At: All National Trail Parks
The great horned owl is the largest of Ohio’s resident owls and the largest “eared” owl in North America. Once abundant in the state, great horned owl numbers have declined with the development of Ohio. This owl will eat a tremendous variety of animals and is a talented hunter; these attributes have allowed it to adapt to nearly all habitat types where there are suitable nest sites. It has a variety of calls or notes including a five-or six-note hoot, shrieks, barks, growls, and a spine-chilling scream. The great horned owl is considered the top bird of prey, fearing no creature but man.
Eastern screech-owls are dichromatic, meaning they come in two distinct color morphs. They are either uniformly gray or uniformly rufous, with darker streaking on the body. Both color morphs allow for camouflage against the bark of trees.
One of the largest bird species in Ohio, populations of the great blue heron are widely distributed throughout the state. Native to Ohio, there was a time when heron numbers dwindled as these birds’ feathers were a favorite of the millinery trade during the 1800s. The great blue heron is often observed motionless, as it pursues its prey while standing in a stream, river or wetland. Unlike numerous other predators that actively stalk on foot or wing, the great blue heron takes the complete opposite approach–it stands still, watching the water for a fish. Then in the blink of an eye, in a sharp and seamless movement it will snare its prey.
This woodpecker is a spectacular bird. It is large, with a brilliant black and white pattern visible when in flight. The pileated woodpecker has a loud call and a prominent red crest. It is predominantly black, with bold black and white neck markings, white underwing linings and a long, stout, dark bill. The male has a red mustache.
Spotted At- Rebert Pike Nature Park
Puddle ducks are typically birds of fresh, shallow marshes and rivers rather than of large lakes and bays. They are good divers, but usually feed by dabbling or tipping rather than by submerging. Any duck feeding in croplands will likely be a puddle duck, for most of this group are surefooted and can walk and run well on land. Their diet consists of mostly vegetable.
Shovelers, “spoonbills” to many, are early migrants, moving out at the first frost. The largest numbers are in the Central and Pacific flyways.
Ohio Status: Species of Special Interest
Spotted At: Old Reid Park
Ospreys were once a common sight throughout North America, but habitat destruction, persecution and the wide-spread use of chemical pesticides such as DDT during the middle of the twentieth century led to a drastic population decline.
Ohio’s osprey reintroduction program is a huge success. Originally started in 1996, the program had a goal of 20 nesting pairs of ospreys by 2010. That goal was achieved in 2003; seven years ahead of schedule.
Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized, mostly black-and-white birds, with strong, sharply pointed bills for chiseling and digging into trees. They drill in search of food (insects and larvae) and to excavate nesting cavaties. As they climb up tree trunks they use their stiff tails as a brace. Their flight is undulating, with the wings folded against the body after each series of flaps. These climbers have strong feet, with two toes facing forward and two backward.
The red-tailed hawk is classified as a buteo — a hawk that spends much of its time soaring and has broad wings and a short, fan-shaped tail. It is a large hawk frequently seen in Ohio. It has not suffered the severe population declines caused by DDT and other pesticides that have struck other species. These birds are extremely beneficial and it is illegal to kill them.
Trumpeter swans were killed for food and skins, first by Indians and then by white men upon arrival on the continent. The plumage trade peaked in the early 1800s and swan populations were dramatically reduced by the mid-1800s. Loss of habitat for this wetland-dependent species resulted in further declines.
Trumpeter swan restoration and management programs that began in the mid-1900s in the U.S. and Canada gradually boosted trumpeter swan populations. In 1996, Ohio became one of a number of states involved in reintroduction plans to restore trumpeter swans to the Midwest.
The turkey vulture is a large black bird with a six-foot wingspan. At a glance, one might think they are bald. But actually, they have a lot of small feathers on their head which is an adaptation to help keep clean when sticking their heads into the guts of a dead animal full of maggots. The adult has a bright red head and the immature vultures have a black head. In flight this vulture can be distinguished from hawks and crows because it soars extensively, holding its wings in a broad “V.”
Upland birds are known for several traits which distinguish them from other birds. They are chicken-like in appearance, and have short, rounded wings, short heavy bills, and heavy bodies. They stay on dry ground and seek cover in brush or woodlands. Typically, these birds do not migrate, but adapt to seasonal changes.
The wild turkey has returned to the Ohio landscape after many years of absence. This bird once inhabited forested areas of the entire state, providing food and sport for Native Americans and early Ohio settlers. As settlement continued and forest lands were converted to cropland, the wild turkey’s population dwindled to the point that no birds remained in the state by 1904.
Spotted At: Snyder Park