East Harbor SP--Middle Harbor

Tips for Birding

East Harbor State Park is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

About this Location

When water levels are low, Middle Harbor can provide excellent habitat for viewing shorebirds. Birders reported good views of birds from the Middle Harbor trail along the south edge of Middle Harbor. There is an observation deck which may be accessed from the picnic area at the southwest corner of Middle Harbor. Birders also reported good views from the trail at the parking lot at the end of North Buck Road. (See the state park map below.)

About East Harbor State Park

See all hotspots at East Harbor State Park

Encompassing 1,831 acres, East Harbor is one of the hidden jewels of lakefront birding hotspots. Its varied habitats include sandy beaches, sheltered bays, open waters of Lake Erie, marshes, shrubland, and swamp forest. Many rarities have been found, including Western Tanager and Magnificent Frigatebird. Songbird fallouts can be spectacular both spring and fall, with nearly every regularly occurring warbler appearing annually, and often in good numbers. The beach attracts a diversity of gulls and terns, including Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian, and Forster’s terns. The protected harbors can teem with waterfowl in March and November. Northern Goshawk has been seen regularly in winter.

East Harbor State Park is situated on a peninsula of land stretching into the waters of Lake Erie–one of the largest freshwater bodies in the world. The history of Lake Erie began with the glacial period when massive sheets of ice gouged and scoured the bedrock of Ohio. Evidence of the force of the ice is found throughout the lake area. Small scratches in the rock surface known as glacial striations are common while major grooves are rare but awesome. The deep depressions left by the glaciers were filled with meltwater forming the series of lakes we know as the Great Lakes.

East Harbor lies on the fringe of Ohio’s prairie marsh zone. These wetlands are remnants of the Great Black Swamp which once covered an area 120 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide. After a period of intense lumbering and draining in the late 1800s, the swamp was nearly destroyed. Only ten percent of Ohio’s original wetlands now remain. These wetlands produce more wildlife than any other type of habitat in Ohio. Reptiles and amphibians are numerous including the green frog, American toad, water snake, fox snake and painted turtle. Large numbers of ducks, geese, gulls, terns and other migratory waterfowl delight birdwatchers. Middle Harbor is a game sanctuary where black-crowned night herons, egrets, great blue herons and other shorebirds find refuge. Furbearers in the park include muskrat and red fox. Hundreds of migrating songbirds rest here before winging north across the lake.


  • Restrooms on site

Content from Ohio Ornithological Society, Sheryl Young, and East Harbor State Park webpage