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Cleveland Area Loop

Greater Yellowlegs along the Lake Erie Birding Trail

About the Cleveland Area Loop

The Cleveland region—Cuyahoga and Lake counties—is by far the most populous area along Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline. It also harbors the most birders, and as a consequence the bird life of the Cleveland vicinity is better known than probably anywhere else in Ohio. Birding is good at all seasons, and records of exciting rarities abound.

This loop is the most populous region on the trail, as the city of Cleveland and neighboring areas are the most developed locales on Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline. There are more sites on the Cleveland Area Loop – 28 – than any other loop. Every type of habitat found along the lake occurs on this loop, and some of the sites are among the most famous birding hotspots in the Midwest. The total species list for this loop is 356, and a remarkable 12 of those have only been recorded in this region.

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What to Look For

The centerpiece of this loop is the city of Cleveland. The Greater Cleveland area is the largest metropolitan region in Ohio, with a population over two million. There are probably more active birders here than anywhere else in the state and as a consequence this loop's bird list is large and spectacular.

Many of the sites along this loop offer outstanding birding opportunities during spring migration, and a number of these same sites support a great diversity of breeding birds. Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve is a standout among migratory hotspots, and boasts one of the largest bird lists of any single site in Ohio.

The greatest sheer numbers of birds occur in fall migration. Lakeside spots such as Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve draw in scads of songbirds: warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and many others. As fall merges into winter, tremendous numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls and Red-breasted Mergansers build up, especially along the downtown Cleveland lakefront.

Even winter has its charms. Eighteen species of gulls have been found, which puts the Cleveland region near the forefront of North America's best gull-watching locales. Joining the gulls are a wide variety of hardy waterfowl, including scoters, Long-tailed Duck, and the occasional King Eider.

Noteworthy Rarities

At least nine species of birds have been found in the Cleveland region, but nowhere else in Ohio. Some of the mega-rarities include: Common Eider, Ivory Gull, Ross's Gull, Black Guillemot, Common Ground-Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Boreal Owl, Rock Wren, and Painted Redstart. Some of the sites on this loop are great places to look for rare species such as Purple Sandpiper and Red Phalarope.

Natural Features

Ohio's best remaining natural beach community is found at Headland's Dunes State Nature Preserve. Many rare plants occur there, such as Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus), American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), and Seaside Spurge (Chamaesyce polygonifolia). Fantastic concentrations of Monarch butterflies can gather at lakefront sites in fall migration. Cuyahoga Valley National Park and The Holden Arboretum, in particular, support a staggering array of botanical diversity across a broad range of habitats.