Building an Empire for the Birds in Northwest Ohio

Unless you’re looking for a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point, Northwest Ohio does not often top lists of U.S. tourist attractions. In recent years, however, it has become a premier destination for a niche set of tourists: birders. The transformation from hidden gem to international birding hotspot was the result of the dedicated effort of volunteers, local businesses and a local bird conservation non-profit.

The wetlands of Northwest Ohio are the destination of choice for over 90,000 tourists from all 50 states, 54 countries, and 6 continents. It is the site of one of the largest birding festivals in the world, the Biggest Week in American Birding, which generates about $40 million in revenue in Northwest Ohio each May.

The Western Basin of Lake Erie, which includes Northwest Ohio, turns out to be a great place to see a wide variety of birds. When birds migrate from the tropical parts of the world to the cooler regions, they tend to use particular routes called “flyways.” The more flyways over an area, the more species of birds you are likely to see. According to Kim Kaufman, director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), three migratory bird flyways pass through this region, providing ample opportunity to birders to see new species.

…Where flock the birds so flock the birders — or so you would think. But there is much more to the story of the Biggest Week in American Birding…

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