By: Daniel Cooley
The Lark Sparrow is absent from all of Ohio, except for at Oak Openings Metropark, near Swanton. The Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager are mainly birds of the southern states and can be found in southern Ohio.
Both the Summer Tanager and Blue Grosbeak have one thing in common with the Lark Sparrow: they thrive in Oak Openings Metropark.
The Lark Sparrow is unique in its coloring on the face, among all sparrows. Both the male and female are very much alike in their coloring.
The face pattern is chestnut and white, with a dark spot on the chest. Elsewhere, the bird is brown, with white on the corner of its long tail.
While listed under the least concern category overall, because the Lark Sparrow is only found in Ohio in Oak Openings, it is considered endangered in Ohio.
The bird nests in Oak Openings, along Girdham and Reed roads, particularly on the northeast side of the road where there are sand dunes.
There are also signs posted all along both sides of Girdham Road, which essentially say, do not enter, sensitive nesting area.
Those same signs are found on the Red Trail in Oak Openings, where the trail runs next to the sand dunes.
The Lark Sparrow eats insects and seeds and often walks on the ground when feeding, sometimes out in the open.
It prefers open country with bushes and trees and likes bare ground near taller plants, while constructing a nest.
This habitat is much more common in the western states, but is common at Oak Openings, which is likely why it is the lone spot to find the Lark Sparrow in Ohio.
The Lark Sparrow is found in western Indiana and all states west of Indiana, from Canada to Texas and southern California.
It is absent from all the eastern states and is absent from Michigan, as well. The Lark Sparrow arrives at Oak Openings in late April or early May. In the fall, it migrates to Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Central and South America.
Another rare bird in Ohio but found in Oak Openings is the Blue Grosbeak. Matt Anderson of Whitehouse, who conducts surveys of Oak Openings for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, stated that Tom Kemp, a Toledo Naturalist member, first discovered a Blue Grosbeak nest on Manore Road, in June 1988. The bird has been spotted in Oak Openings, every year since.
The Blue Grosbeak, mainly a southern bird, sports a dark blue body and cinnamon colored wing bars among the male. The female is cinnamon brown all over and has brown wing bars.
Anderson stated that the Blue Grosbeak is scattered in its sightings, as it is sometimes found at Sylvan Prairie in Sylvania and at Cannonball Prairie, in Monclova.
But Anderson said that the most reliable spot to find the Blue Grosbeak is in Oak Openings Metropark, on Girdham Road, near Reed Road.
It is also often found on Jeffers Road in Oak Openings, across from the Horse Riding Center. The Blue Grosbeak eats seeds and insects.
While the number of the Blue Grosbeak is never large, Anderson believes they nest in Oak Openings, pretty much every year.
The largest number of Blue Grosbeaks that Anderson found was in 2017, with six singing males, meaning there was a potential for six nests.
The Blue Grosbeak arrives in Oak Openings in mid-April. In the fall, it migrates to Central and South America.
Another mainly southern bird that makes Oak Openings its home is the Summer Tanager. The bird arrives in Oak Openings in early May and in the fall, migrates to Central and South America.
The male Summer Tanager is rosy red all over, while the female is mainly yellow in color. Besides Oak Openings, the Summer Tanager is found in extreme southern Ohio and all the southern states.
The Summer Tanager eats berries and insects, including bees and wasps. It prefers dry open woods, particularly among hickory and oak trees.
Anderson said that the first Summer Tanager nest in Oak Openings was discovered in June of 1989. The bird has been seen every year since and is doing well in the Oak Openings Metropark.
“Oak Openings is one of the better spots in Ohio for the Summer Tanager,” Anderson said. “Numerous pairs mate every year. In 2019, while doing a breeding bird survey, I found 19 singing males.”
That means that there could have potentially been 19 nests that year.
Dan can be reached at email@example.com