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12 Rare Birds in Ohio (With Pictures)

cattle egret perched

12 Rare Birds in Ohio (With Pictures)

Ohio is a great state for bird watchers. With the diversity of habitats throughout the state, you can find a wide variety of beautiful birds in Ohio.

Whether you’re just getting started as a birder or are an experienced enthusiast, it’s always exciting when you come across one of the rarer species.

This article will provide a list of rare birds in Ohio, their characteristics, and the best places to view them.

List of 12 Rare Birds in Ohio

According to the Ohio Bird Records Committee, the most recent data reveals that Ohio is home to 442 species of birds.

Among all of them, below are listed 12 birds that rarely occur in Ohio.

Burrowing Owls

brown and white owl standing on the ground

Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
Conservation Status: Least concern (population decreasing)

Burrowing owls mainly inhabit the northeastern US. However, passionate bird watchers have recently spotted these rare birds in Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

These owls got their specific name due to their unusual habit of nesting in underground burrows dug by other animals. Another thing unique to these birds is their feather density, which is the highest in the bird world.

Burrowing owls have a 20-inch wingspan and weigh up to 5 oz. They’re not creatures of the night, unlike most owls. Instead, they enjoy daytime activities, especially hunting small rodents and birds.

With facial disks that act as ear muffs and eyes well-adapted to night conditions, these owls are skilled hunters who deftly avoid danger.

Northern Goshawks

northern goshawk on snow

Scientific Name: Accipiter gentilis
Conservation Status: Least concern (population stable)

Northern goshawks are not common birds in Ohio, but they can be spotted in northern state areas, especially near Lake Erie. Consider yourself lucky if you see one of these, as they don’t breed in the state but prefer more northern, wooded areas.

Northern goshawks are very prominent, with gray-black plumage and white stripes stretching from their reddish eyes to the crown. That gives them a slightly intimidating appearance.

Northern goshawks justify the predator title with outstanding hunting and flying skills. From a great height, they can easily spot mice, rabbits, and even reptiles and insects, then attack them with incredible speed.

Read Also: Black and White Birds in Michigan

White Ibises

white ibis in green field

Scientific Name: Eudocimus
Conservation Status: Least concern (population stable)

White ibises inhabit the coastal wetlands of the Atlantic coast all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. However, outside the breeding period, these birds like to go inland. For instance, they’ve been spotted in the Sandy Ridge and Metzger Marsh Wildlife areas in Ohio.

Because of their white feathers, orange legs, and large, curved beak, ibises are easy to spot. While eating, they stick together to protect each other from predators. But during nesting, they often retreat to high trees or lush shrubs.

White ibises are sensitive to environmental changes, even near extinction several decades ago due to increased pollution and wetland drying up.

Luckily, there has been an increase in the white ibis population in Ohio, mainly in coastal areas near Lake Erie and the Ohio River. There’s plenty of food since these birds mostly eat fish, aquatic plants, and insects.

Western Tanagers

western tanager on a tree

Scientific Name: Piranga ludoviciana
Conservation Status: Least concern (population stable)

Tanagers are not US natives, but people feel a special connection with them, mainly because of their vivid, fire-like feathers reminiscent of tropical regions. These birds prefer warm areas, so it’s rare to see them inland, especially in cold, wet Ohio.

Despite the striking body plumage and the reddish shades on the head, tanagers are challenging to see. They mostly hide in bushes but also prefer open spaces and fields where they eat fruit, seeds, and insects.

During spring and summer, male tanagers are very songful. Their sounds are unique and consist of several short ‘phrases,’ so their singing sounds like answering flash quiz questions.

Pacific Loons

pacific loon in the water
Credit: Francesco Veronesi, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Scientific Name: Gavia pacifica
Conservation Status: Least concern (population increasing)

Pacific loons are not rare birds in terms of population numbers since this species is not endangered. However, they’re considered rare in continental areas, as they usually reside in lakes near tundras and north Pacific bays.

Most of these birds usually breed in the open seas during the winter. During winter migration, most birds go to the Pacific, but some reach the Atlantic coast and stop by Ohio on the way. Those who choose this route find their home around big water ponds.

These waterfowl are quite large for this order of birds. Their vast bodies and wings help them when diving, but their weight can aggravate when taking off. But once they get in the air, they can fly at speeds up to 40 mph.

American White Pelicans

American white pelican in the water

Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
Conservation Status: Least concern (population increasing)

Until recently, pelicans were usual residents of the oceans and open seas. However, American white pelicans are increasingly seen in Ohio’s shallow freshwater lakes and wetlands. Common sightings are near Lake Erie.

You’ll hardly confuse these birds with any others. Due to their bulky bodies (up to 20 lbs), and large wingspan (almost 9 feet), they’re impressive. Also, you will generally see them in flocks of several dozen or even several hundred individuals.

In addition, these white birds have throat pouches and odd beaks that become even odder during breeding. Namely, an unusual plate appears at the beak’s end and disappears after mating.

Cattle Egrets

white cattle egret on green grass

Scientific Name: Bubulcus ibis
Conservation Status: Least concern (population increasing)

Although native to Africa, cattle egrets somehow found their way to the American continent decades ago.

Despite the growing population in the States, only a few can be seen in Lake Erie counties in Ohio. Recently, they’ve bred around Oak Harbor and the Columbus area.

Egrets belong to herons and are known for their specific feathers, which change color throughout the year. Unlike other herons, cattle egrets often live in fields and native grasslands near livestock.

You’ll often see egrets on cattle’s backs, which is how they got their name. Yet, they don’t make friends with cattle; they feed on fleas and ticks found on their fur. Also, these birds catch bugs and small reptiles that large cattle run over.

Golden Eagles

golden eagle standing on a stump

Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos
Conservation Status: Least concern (population stable)

Golden eagles are a frequent sight in the mountainous regions of the American West, where their sounds echo through canyons and high cliffs. But in Ohio, their population is scarce, as they can be seen on only a few sightings in winter.

You can’t help but be amazed by the golden eagles’ beauty and grace. But these fascinating birds are also vicious predators. They usually hunt small mammals but don’t hesitate to attack larger animals such as deer, coyotes, and even bear cubs.

Despite their fearless nature, golden eagles are also romantic. They’ll try to impress females with their hunting and flying abilities. When they succeed, these lovers often hunt together and spend their entire lives as a pair.

Common Ravens

common raven in a close up photo

Scientific Name: Corvus corax
Conservation Status: Least concern (population increasing)

Many Ohioans had never seen a raven. In fact, the last time these birds were seen was a century ago.

But the turning point happened a couple of years ago when a nesting pair was spotted at Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry. Since then, ravens have been periodically seen in Ohio.

Ordinary viewers often confuse ravens with crows, but experienced bird watchers know the differences. Initially, common ravens are large and emit piercing sounds.

Common ravens lurk and chase their prey in pairs. Small animals and nesting chicks are their usual prey. Sometimes they eat fruits and grains, but the basis of their diet is meat.

In addition, these birds have excellent social skills and often build colonies to outnumber other species in a certain territory.

Evening Grosbeaks

evening grosbeak standing on tiny branch

Scientific Name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
Conservation Status: Least concern (population decreasing)

Evening grosbeaks are quite a sight. Males have unusual yellow markings on their faces that give them a somewhat angry expression. On the other hand, females are known for having greenish traces on their necks.

These songbirds have strong beaks to peck tree bark and crack seeds and thus find food even on cold days.

Still, they prefer to overwinter further south, in the US inland. That’s how some evening grosbeaks end up in Ohio.

Interestingly, grosbeaks aren’t afraid of people. When they lack food, they’ll invade gardens and sunflower fields.

So there’s a good chance the evening grosbeak will visit your yard. And although you won’t hear them sing, you’ll recognize them by their cheerful chirping.

Red Crossbills

red crossbill on tiny branch

Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra
Conservation Status: Least concern (population stable)

Red crossbills are finch birds that inhabit conifer forests. There, they enjoy a variety of seeds as their main food. So these birds will settle wherever they find enough food.

For this reason, red crossbills sometimes go further south of their range. The wind blows the conifer seeds, expanding the areas where these trees grow. By following their favorite foods, red crossbills may end up in Ohio, or more precisely, in its northern parts.

Red crossbills have specially designed beaks for opening cones. They enjoy eating conifer seeds and even feed them to their young. And when they can’t find their favorite food, crossbills will gladly visit feeders, provided they’re full of seeds.

Anna’s Hummingbirds

Anna's hummingbird standing on flower

Scientific Name: Calypte anna
Conservation Status: Least concern (population increasing)

Anna’s hummingbird is another rare bird in Ohio, although its natural habitat is in North America’s coastal areas.

So if you see these tiny creatures around, you’re witnessing a pretty rare sight. Officially, none of these have been spotted in Ohio since 2017.

These birds are known for specific feather colors. Females are less noticeable than males, which have pinkish-red heads and throats. These birds enjoy flower juice but also eat insects and arthropods.

Furthermore, Ana’s hummingbirds are known for their unusual vocalizations, which resemble squeaking. They also express their territoriality by flying high and dramatically diving back to the ground.

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