Bird Migration:

Article Posted: February 15, 2000

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Ohio Division of Wildlife

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Valentine’s Day has just passed, daylight continues to get longer, and March 1 is very soon to arrive. Can the start of spring be near?

While the early bird may find it difficult to get the worm out of Ohio soil in late February, the first stage of seasonal migration is underway, according to various wildlife observers and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

Wildlife agency staff at the Crane Creek Research Station at Magee Marsh along Lake Erie’s western basin report sightings of red-winged blackbirds and an increased abundance of waterfowl. Red-wings are among the first songbirds to begin the northward spring migration. The male red-wing blackbird is first to arrive ahead of its female counterpart in searching of breeding territories.

The Division of Wildlife is hosting its annual Canada Goose Day March 5 at Magee Marsh, one of a number of familiar annual events held in Ohio that celebrate the beginning of spring.

But there are other signs evident this month indicating that spring is soon to arrive.

Bald eagles are involved in nesting activities as they prepare for what most likely will be another record year in reproductive success. Last year, a record 57 pairs of bald eagles nested in Ohio. Peregrine falcons are also in the early stages of locating and preparing nesting sites in some of the metropolitan areas.

In addition to red-wing blackbirds and sparrows, the next migration arrivals will include killdeer, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, woodcock, and horned larks. The seasonal hawk migration is just now beginning with reports of early arrivals scattered throughout the Buckeye State. Some of the least common Ohio waterfowl species that breed and nest in Canada, such as white-fronted geese, snow geese, trumpeter swans, and tundra swans, are also now migrating through the state. Canvasback ducks, redheads, and loons also are about to arrive as open water areas continue to emerge from winter’s icy grip.

The peak of spring migration in Ohio generally occurs the last week of March.

Another well observed sign that spring is nearing concerns the amount of daylight present. On Valentine’s Day, Ohioans were getting 10 hours, 40 minutes of daylight between sunrise and sunset. By March 1, the period between sunrise and sunset will be nearly 11˝ hours. Clear, sunny days will make realtime daylight last for about 12 hours by month’s end.

March 1 is generally regarded as the beginning of "climatic spring", that unofficial first day climatologists, meteorologists, and other outdoors enthusiasts designate as the start of the March-April-May spring period. The official first day of spring occurs on March 20, still about a month away.

Activity at bird feeders should begin to increase in the coming weeks as well with more birds arriving in backyards. A Division of Wildlife survey showed that the average Ohio household has 1.3 bird feeders. People on average maintain their bird feeders for five months, usually October through March.

The familiar black buzzards, known also as turkey vultures, are again expected to arrive in Hinckley on their March 15 due date.

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