Birding in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is a rewarding experience—spending time in nature, never knowing which of the hundreds of birds found in our area you may see or hear. While a pair of binoculars can enhance your bird watching, anyone taking a walk on a trail (or in their neighborhood!) while patiently looking and listening can call themselves a birder.
It’s an easy hobby to start, but there are some important things to remember to help protect birds, their habitats and nature in general. When getting into birding, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the American Birding Association’s Code of Birding Ethics and these key guidelines for birding in the Forest Preserves:
- Keep your distance. Getting too close to birds can cause them stress, disrupt normal behaviors (like feeding or breeding), or even make them abandon their territory or a nest.
- Stay on trails. Walking and biking off trail can harm sensitive natural areas and damage the resources birds and other wildlife need to survive.
- Respect and support fellow birders and visitors. The Forest Preserves are for everyone—show respect for other people’s time and space.
- Check the rules before you visit. The Forest Preserves has rules specific to our natural areas. For example, visitors are not allowed to feed wildlife or collect plants, mushrooms, and any natural or cultural items.
- Support conservation efforts. Help birds by planting native plants, avoiding use of pesticides, making windows safer, keeping cats indoors and joining volunteer efforts.
Birds are an important part of the ecological system in the Forest Preserves, but evidence is mounting that human-caused environmental changes are taking a heavy toll on birds. “Humans can have a negative impact on nature if they mistreat it,” says Jessica Becker, bird enthusiast and a program specialist with our Conservation and Experiential Programming department. By treating nature well, and following ethical birding guidelines, you can help ensure a future where birds thrive in the Forest Preserves.
Visit our Birding Page for more information, resources, events and more. When you head out birding, be sure to take a photo and share what birds you spot with our #BirdThePreserves hashtag on social media.