Hotspots Near You

55. The Wilds, Cumberland, Ohio

This huge wildlife conservation center is home to Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, and Short-eared Owls in winter and Bobolinks, meadowlarks, and Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows in summer.
By Jim McCormac | Published: 10/22/2008

First-time visitors to the vast grasslands of the Wilds might think they’ve been beamed onto the plains of Africa. Understandable, as not many birders associate the southeastern Ohio hill country with thousands of acres of grass. But we’ve got fields aplenty and great birding.

Henslow’s Sparrow, the secretive bird with a song like an anemic cricket, is a draw. It occurs in huge numbers and shouldn’t be missed in summer. Many other grassland breeders join it, including so many Bobolinks that their bubbling sometimes drowns out other birds. Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows? Dime a dozen.

My most memorable birding experiences at the Wilds come from winter. Bundle up; cool air driven by whistling winds will frost your ears. Well worth it, though, as raptors abound. This is the only Ohio site where Golden Eagles winter, sometimes up to three individuals. They are joined by scads of Rough-legged Hawks down from the Arctic, Northern Harriers, and Short-eared Owls; in 1999 as many as 55 owls were seen at one time! — Jim McCormac

Jim McCormac is the author of Birds of Ohio. He writes the blog Ohio Birds and Biodiversity. He also wrote about Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, Hotspot Near You No. 23, Scioto Audubon Metro Park, Columbus, Ohio, No. 73, and East 72nd St. Fishing Area, Cleveland, Ohio, No. 107.

 

55. The Wilds, Cumberland, Ohio

Directions

The Wilds is a private large-animal research facility. From Cleveland, take I-77 south to I-70 west at Cambridge. Exit at SR 83 south and drive 12 miles to Cumberland. Turn right onto SR 146, proceed 5 miles and turn left onto Zion Ridge Rd. Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto SR 284. Drive 0.25 mile and turn left to reach the Birding Station at Jeffrey Point.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
39°49’48.57″N 81°45’23.80″W

Habitat

Primarily grassland. Also lakes, wetlands, and forests.

Terrain

Lightly traveled roads, some unpaved.

Birds

Winter: Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Short-eared Owl, and other raptors, and Northern Shrike. Grassland breeders: Henslow’s Sparrow, Dickcissel, Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark. Shrublands: Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Orchard Oriole. Woodlands: Cerulean Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk, and Scarlet Tanager. Migration brings large numbers and diversity of waterfowl to area ponds. Rarities: Long-tailed Duck and all three scoters.

When to go

May through August for breeders; December through February for raptors. Check website for regular bird-related events.

Amenities

Guided safaris allow visitors to see free-roaming rhinos, bison, cheetahs, and other animals. Restaurant and gift shop open May to October. Great birds can often be seen from the windows. General store in nearby Cumberland. Lodging and other amenities in Zanesville, about 25 minutes away.

Access

Private wildlife conservation center. Free Birding Station at Jeffrey Point on SR 284 open daily year-round. Safari prices range from $18-$65. Safaris operate daily June through August and on weekends in May, September, and October. Roads bisecting the area are open to the public.

Tips

Spotting scope very useful; raptors are often spotted at extreme distances. Be wary of unpaved road conditions in winter or after rains; four-wheel drive can be an asset.

For more info

The Wilds
Ohio Ornithological Society

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