Winter Wonderland of Birds

This is a great time of year for birdwatching.  Throughout the Forest Preserves of Cook County, approximately 120 bird species have been recorded during winter, including 57 migrants and 63 resident birds.


Interested in learning more about the mentioned bird species or to see photos of what they look like? Visit


Common local birds you are most likely to spot on a hike in the preserves or at your backyard bird feeder include:

  • American Goldfinch
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Mallard
  • Blue Jay
  • Several species of woodpeckers: Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied
  • Great-horned and Screech Owl
  • Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • American Kestrel


But you won’t just see resident birds in the forest preserves. There are a number of northern bird species that migrate through our area in the winter, using forest preserves to refuel and rest during their long migrations.


Common Migrants include:

  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Tree Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Common and Red-breasted Merganser
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Long-eared and Short-eared Owl
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Northern Harrier


Some migrant species are considered irruptive, meaning these species change their breeding or wintering sites from year to year. Depending on the year, you may also spot:

  • Pine Siskin
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-winged and Red Crossbill
  • Purple Finch
  • Common Redpolls


While it may be cold outside, that won’t stop you from seeing beautiful birds throughout the forest preserves. Winter biding also provides some benefits: there are fewer species to identify and it will help prepare new birders for the larger spring migration season.


To plan a self-guided birding excursion, download our birding checklist: If you’d rather join a guided bird walk or event, check out these upcoming opportunities:


Evening Owl Hike

Friday, January 11 • 7pm

Crabtree Nature Center – 3 Stover Road, Barrington Hills

Join us for an informative talk about these nocturnal hunters. Afterwards we’ll look for these unique predators on a .5-mile hike.


Snow Birds

Sunday, January 13 • 10am

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center – 9800 Willow Springs Rd, Willow Springs

What birds visit your feeding station during winter? Join a naturalist to learn how to identify and attract these “snow birds” to your feeders. All ages. Registration required.


Winter Bird Walk

Saturday, January 19 • 9:30am

Trailside Museum of Natural History – 738 Thatcher Ave, River Forest

We’ll observe the action at our bird feeders, then head out for trail. Binoculars available.


This Old Birdhouse

Sunday, January 27 • 1pm

Crabtree Nature Center – 3 Stover Road, Barrington Hills

Prepare for the upcoming nesting season by constructing a birdhouse. Plans and placement suggestions included. Ages 10 and up. $5. Registration required.


Two Owls & a Naturalist

Sunday, January 27 • 1:30pm

River Trail Nature Center – 3120 Milwaukee Ave, Northbrook

Learn about owls’ unique adaptations and get up close and personal with two of River Trail’s resident owls.


Forest preserves are open year round; make sure to take advantage of all winter has to offer. Happy birding!


Photo by Kris DaPra.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County