Words on Birds: Why birds and birding matter to Northwest Ohio

By: 
Kimberly Kaufman

Since the inception of Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Biggest Week In American Birding in 2010, more people in this region are aware of birds and birding than ever before.
Birds enhance the quality of our lives in myriad ways, and birding tourism is providing our area with a much-needed economic “shot in the arm” in early spring. Here are just a few reasons to consider expanding your knowledge of birds and birding and supporting BSBO and The Biggest Week In American Birding.
Quality of life
Birds are colorful and active, and many sing beautiful songs. Once you delve into the world of birds, you’ll discover that their lifestyles and behaviors are endlessly fascinating. Imagine a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (weighing just one-tenth of an ounce) crossing the Gulf of Mexico in fall migration, an 18-hour journey.
And, although it’s possible to do a lot of birding just by looking out the window, sooner or later, birds will lure us outdoors. Studies have proven that when we’re outdoors, moving around and breathing fresh air, we tend to take deeper breaths. With more oxygen transported to all the cells of our bodies, including our brains, we become more alert and our mood is likely to be elevated. Yes, birding is good for your health.
A Feather in our tourism cap (pun intended)
The sensational birding in this area is a tremendous and highly marketable asset. I like to say that all the birding stars align for us here in Northwest Ohio. First, we have major concentrations of birds. When migratory birds are moving north in spring, a large expanse of water poses a daunting barrier. Before crossing Lake Erie, small songbirds need to rest and feed to build their energy reserves. As a result, large concentrations of these small birds converge on the remaining patches of wooded habitat along our lakeshore in spring.
We also have access to some of the best birding spots on the continent for experiencing this migration parade. Birding sites like our world-class Metroparks, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provide prime habitat for migratory birds, as well as access for people, allowing us to immerse birders in spring migration in a way that rivals any other destination in the Western Hemisphere.
Birds mean business
The birding industry in the region didn’t happen by accident. The leadership at BSBO recognized the value of the birding experience in the area and the opportunity to promote this extraordinary birding destination to the world birding market. The BSBO team was uniquely positioned to carry out this plan.
From mid-April through May, more than 90,000 birders visit our area to take in this astounding migration spectacle. To date, we’ve had visiting birders from every state, more than 50 countries and six continents travel to Northwest Ohio just to enjoy “our” birds. While they’re here, they spend in excess of 40 million dollars in local businesses.
And while spring migration is justly famous, fall migration lasts longer – almost half the year – and involves more birds, since the surviving adults are joined by many more young birds hatched during the summer. So, this is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the feathered parade passing through our area.
The take-home message
If you remember one thing about this article, I hope it’s this: the connection between habitat conservation and the economic impact of birding tourism. To continue to provide the world-class birding experience that attracts birders from all over the globe, we must be good stewards of the habitat that supports birds. We must protect the habitat that already exists and expand and enhance these areas at every opportunity. Doing so is an investment in the health and wealth of our communities.
Learn more about birds, birding, and Black Swamp Bird Observatory at www.bsbo.org
To support the Biggest Week In American Birding as a sponsor, visit www.bwiab.com
Kimberly Kaufman is the executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO).

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