Metroparks Meetup: Oak Openings Raptor Monitoring Program

Metroparks Meetup: Oak Openings Raptor Monitoring Program
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:42 PM EDT
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No Jurassic Park terror here... just volunteers working to protect our local birds of prey!

Each day in the spring, 25 to 30 volunteer monitors walk trails across the Oak Openings region to locate the nests of various species of hawks, owls, and eagles. Locating the nests can be a difficult task, especially when the trees begin to leaf out. But Metroparks staff say that the secret to finding them is to look for blobs in the trees.

“We start in March and monitor into May for many of our species of raptors in the area,” said Karen Menard, the Research & Monitoring Supervisor with Metroparks Toledo.

The program has been going on for 18 years now, and the data collected during that time has been promising. “We’re finding a lot more birds than we thought we would, in terms of red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks,” explained Menard.

Nine species of raptors have been observed nesting in the Oak Openings region, and it’s been discovered that they actually prefer to build nests near human habitation as opposed to out in the Metroparks. The leading theory is that they like the “fast food” that nearby insects and rodents provide.

Raptors are also known as an ‘indicator species.’

“They’re very important for keeping our small animal populations in check and keeping our ecosystems healthy and balanced,” Menard told us. She also says the program wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers. “Each monitor, each volunteer, has their own trail that they walk within the Metroparks that exist within the Oak Openings region.”

One of those monitors is Jerry Thomasson, who has been volunteering for the Raptor monitoring program for five years now. He says it’s a wonderful way to enjoy nature while also working to protect it. “I never really realized how many different raptors there are, and there are a number. But to be able to recognize with sight and sound, and of course, find a nest when you do, that’s always a treat,” said Thomasson.

The 2023 monitoring program is almost done, but they are looking for more volunteers for next year, and they’re also looking for homeowners in the Oak Openings area to report any nests in their backyards. For more information about this program, click on this link: