Focus on Birding near a State Line

Example of a locaiton on a state line.

Please remember that multi-state checklists are not possible in eBird. The birds you report are assigned to the state in which the hotspot is located.

Ohio is bordered by Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. There are several Ohio eBird hotspots located near a state line. It is helpful to know where the state line is located so that the birds will be assigned to the proper state.

Birding along County, State, and Country borders

In eBird, every complete checklist should be thought of as an attempt to record everything that you can detect from where you are standing or walking. If you are standing along the banks of a river you should certainly scan the river and both of its banks. If you are along a ridgetop, you should be counting birds that you can see in all directions. However, at times there may be a geopolitical border that bisects your walking path or your field of view. Birds never have cared much about geopolitics and in many cases, they freely cross borders. What is the best way to do your eBirding in cases like this?

When it comes to the position of the birder and the position of the bird, listing rules can be inconsistent. For example, the preference in Ohio is to only count birds that have demonstrably occurred within the state or county boundaries. However, most yard lists count whatever bird can be seen from your yard. eBird best practices strive to bring more consistency to lists.

How to report checklists near a state or county line in Ohio

Ohio eBird reviewers ask that birders keep precise state and county lists. When you are at a location where you see birds across a state or county line, we ask that you keep two incomplete birding lists, one for each side of the border.

When keeping separate checklists for different sides of a border, please follow these rules:

  • For both checklists, the answer to “Is this a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?” must be “No“, because each list intentionally omits birds in the other geopolitical area.
  • Use your exact location for birds detected on your side of the border; create a personal location directly across from you on the opposite side of the border for the birds you detect on that side. (You can also select an appropriate hotspot for either side of the border, but only if it accurately describes your location on your side or the general vicinity of the birds on the other side.)
  • If you freely crossed back and forth across the border while birding, choose an incomplete Stationary or Traveling protocol for both checklists. If you could not freely cross the border while birding, use the “Incidental” protocol for the checklist on the inaccessible side. Do not use the Stationary or Traveling protocol for any lists plotted to counties, states, or provinces you did not bird within.
  • We recommend focusing on one side of the border at a time instead of trying to keep two lists at once (you will not be able to keep simultaneous lists running on eBird Mobile if you are using tracks).

eBird best practices

Continue to follow eBird best practices; submit complete checklists that are short in duration and distance.

  • At eBird, complete checklists come first. Complete checklists are an attempt to record everything you can see or hear from your location. We do not want birds left off your list simply because they were across an (often invisible) geopolitical boundary. If you do leave birds off for this reason, it is no longer a complete checklist!

When traveling somewhere, begin a new checklist every time you cross a border.

  • This ensures the expected species list on eBird Mobile is up to date, and any new birds you detect are placed in your current county, state, and country instead of the previous one.

Every bird seen or heard from our location "counts," regardless of where the bird is.

  • A complete checklist includes birds on both sides of the border. If you are standing on the Texas side of the US-Mexico border, and you see a Lineated Woodpecker flying on the Mexico side, report it! In eBird, this observation “counts” for where you are standing (i.e., your US and Texas lists). In Ohio, we ask that you use two incomplete checklists in these circumstances so that birds are assigned to the correct state and county.

Plot your location as accurately and precisely as possible.

  • For complete checklists, always plot your checklist where you were, not where the birds were. Do not place a complete checklist anywhere you did not stand or travel during that list.
  • Your data will be summarized to a single county, state, and country based on where you plot your checklist – so be precise! Avoid using hotspots if they do not accurately represent your location for the entire checklist.

Any time you see or hear a rare bird across a border, add some notes in the Species Comments about the bird’s location.

  • From the example above: because Lineated Woodpecker does not have a confirmed record within the United States, if you see or hear one in Mexico while you are on the Texas side of the border, you would certainly be asked to provide notes about this rare observation. Write detailed comments to help other birders understand the exact location of the bird relative to your own. This is especially helpful for those that might use the data, including journals and Bird Record Committees

Geopolitical units give us a way to organize and summarize eBird observations. Any birds you report on a checklist, regardless of where or how far you travel, will be automatically assigned to a county (where applicable), state/province, and country based on where you plot your list.

In most cases, this also determines the data entry checklist and data quality filter. Your checklist can only use one eBird filter, so there may be mismatches in species data if you include birds from multiple geopolitical areas on the same checklist, especially when those areas have considerably different habitats and birds.

These issues can be avoided by doing all of the following, in addition to the instructions above:

  • keep your checklists short in distance and duration
  • plot your location as precisely as possible
  • start a new checklist every time you cross a geopolitical boundary while traveling

These steps ensure your checklist is assigned to the correct eBird filter and summarized in the appropriate county, state, and country.
From eBird help article Birding Along Borders

Below is a list of locations in Ohio where the state line passes near an eBird hotspot.

Michigan State Line

Lucas County
Toledo Memorial Park
All of the developed section of Toledo Memorial Park, located north of Toledo, is in Ohio. The northern, undeveloped section of this cemetery is in Michigan. A hotspot has not been established for this northern section of the cemetery.

149th St., Point Place
This hotspot is the northernmost location in Ohio on the Point Place peninsula. The northern tip of the peninsula is in Michigan. While there is an eBird hotspot in Michigan at the tip of the peninsula, Lost Peninsula, the road is a private, gated drive with access limited to residents and their guests.

Pennsylvania State Line

Ashtabula County
Pymatuning State Park
The Pymatuning Reservoir is on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and is served by a state park in each state. For the convenience of birders, the hotspots in both states are referenced on the page link above.

The Ohio River forms the Ohio border with two states, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Since the late 1700s, various states have claimed ownership of various stretches of the Ohio River. The principal reason was to garner wealth from the trade that occurred on the river. In 1792, the federal government determined that Kentucky owned the Ohio River along its border with Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In essence, the boundary between Kentucky and these three future states would be the low point of the Ohio River’s northernmost bank.

Both Indiana and Ohio have sought to claim the Ohio River, despite the federal government’s declaration in 1792. In 1966, Ohio claimed that the Ohio River’s course had fluctuated since 1792 so that the low point of the Ohio River’s northernmost bank in 1792 actually would be near the south bank of the river today. Ohio asked the United States Supreme Court to give ownership of the river to Ohio or, at the bare minimum, to set the boundary between Kentucky and Ohio at the midpoint of the Ohio River. The Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky had legal ownership of the Ohio River.
From Ohio History Central

The area of the Ohio River that borders West Virginia, and the islands that are located within it, are wholly owned by West Virginia, the deed of cession of the Northwest Territory fixed the low watermark on the Ohio side as the western boundary of (what was then) Virginia. More than 30 West Virginia communities extend along the river.
From The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Because of these ownership concerns, in most places, the state line is very near the Ohio side of the river, and birds seen out in the river are not physically in Ohio. eBird allows birders to decide which birds “count” for their state list and, as indicated above, it is permissible in eBird to record all the birds you can observe from a location. The Ohio Bird Record Committee and Ohio eBird reviewers, on the other hand, usually want the bird to be physically located in the state. Birders who report rare bird sightings or unusually high counts may want to keep this in mind as they prepare eBird checklists.

The counties below are listed from north to south along the Ohio River.

West Virginia State Line

While there are many hotspots on the Ohio side of the river along the West Virginia border, there are just a few where there are hotspots established on both sides of the river.

Belmont County
Pike Island Lock and Dam
The Ohio-West Virginia border is near the Ohio side of the Ohio River at this location. There are separate hotspots in West Virginia for reporting birds seen in the river pool or at the Pike Island Dam.

Columbiana County
Broadway Wharf

Jefferson County
New Cumberland Locks and Dam
Rayland Marina (Jefferson Co.)

Lawrence County
Burlington Commons
Burlington Commons is a park just east of the southernmost point of Ohio. The state line is on the Ohio side of the river and birds seen on the river are in West Virginia.

Monroe County
Hannibal Dam
The locks at the Hannibal Dam are on the Ohio side of the river and the state line runs along the middle of the locks area. There is a hotspot on the West Virginia side of the river.
Fly-Sistersville Ferry
The state line is 20-40 yards out in the river from the Ohio shoreline. If you take the ferry to Sisterville you cross the state line at the beginning of the crossing. There is currently no hotspot in West Virginia.
Fly Rest Area

Washington County
Willow Island Lock and Dam (Ohio)
Ohio Riverfront Park, Marietta
Gunlock Park
Civitan Park

Meigs County
Ohio River Lock and Dam 23
Belleville Locks and Dam (Ohio)
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Belleville Locks and Dam.
Forked Run SP--Ohio River Access
Shade River Bridge @ OH-124

Gallia County
Gavin Power Plant
Kyger Creek Power Plant
Gallipolis Locks and Dam (Ohio)
Gallipolis Riverfront
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Gallipolis Locks and Dam.

Kentucky State Line

Adams County
Island Creek Boat Ramp

Scioto County
Moore's Lane
Riverfront Park, Portsmouth
Shawnee SP--Marina

Clermont County
Chilo Lock 34 Park and Crooked Run Nature Preserve
Meldahl Dam (Ohio)
There are hotspots on each side of the river for the Meldahl Locks and Dam.
New Richmond Riverfront

Hamilton County
Four Seasons Marina
Saint Rose Church River View
Theodore M. Berry Park
Smale Riverfront Park
Fernbank Park

Indiana State Line

At this time, there are no hotspots established along the Ohio-Indiana border.