The Ohio open waters of Lake Erie extending from the east side of the Bass Island Archipelago eastward to the Pennsylvania border, known as the Central Basin.
The waters of the Lake Erie Central Basin has been poorly studied by ornithologist due to the majority of the region being remote from land-based surveys. Aerial surveys over the past 30 years conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife for waterfowl, commercial fishing, and specific pelagic species has exposed the vast amounts of bird life utilizing not only the harbor regions but distant open water. Counts of Red-breasted Mergansers have recorded nearly a quarter million birds which represents an extremely large portion of the global population contained within the basin at one time. These large concentrations continue to this day even though many of the routine surveys have been discontinued. Significant concentrations of American Black Duck (~4,000), Canvasback (~9,000), and Common Goldeneye (~10,000) have also been recorded. Recent pelagic surveys designed to document bird activity for purposes of assessing risk from planned offshore wind facilities indicate large concentrations of Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Herring Gull. Wintering numbers of northern gulls such as Glaucous, Iceland, Greater Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Little Gulls are just now being recognized. The importance of the region to migrating land birds as they pass between Canada and Ohio can only be guessed at by recognizing the large concentrations found at shore-based sites following major migration events. These numbers rival numbers observed in the Western Basin where substantial data exist for land birds and the importance of the region.