Experience birding during self-led visits or join guided programs throughout the season
Weaving throughout Chicagoland are interstate highways, shipping canals, airpaths, and even bike trails, all serving as integral routes for transportation. But just as people rely on local transportation options, native and migrating birds depend on their own transportation thoroughfare.
Each year, hundreds of different bird species travel along the Mississippi Flyway—a route connecting Canada and the United States to locations in Mexico, Central and South America—for spring and fall migration. During these times, nearly 300 species of birds rely on the healthy habitats found in the Forest Preserves of Cook County to provide them with needed food and shelter while en route. These are amazing times of the year to get out and go birding.
“Bird watching can serve as a gateway activity for a greater connection to our natural world. It’s also a fun and easy way for folks to get out and enjoy the Forest Preserves,” says Cook County Board and Forest Preserves President Toni Preckwinkle. “There is an excitement that comes with seeing so many types of birds, with their stunning colors and cheerful songs; and all season long, there are endless opportunities to get out and spot native and migrating birds.”
Whether you’re a birding enthusiast or beginner, bird watching can be enjoyed in numerous of ways: while exploring local woodlands, savannas, prairies and wetlands; while visiting any of the Forest Preserves’ six nature centers; while walking or hiking along more than 350 miles of trails; or while canoeing or kayaking along major local waterways.
Looking for a guided birding program or learning tips from an experienced instructor? Considering checking out one of these events:
- Saturday, May 13 * 7 am-1 pm
- Sand Ridge Nature Center, 15891 Paxton Ave, South Holland
- Join us for a day dedicated to celebrating our feathered neighbors! There will be guided walks, a big sit, and activities and crafts throughout the day.
- Wednesday, May 17 * 3:30 pm
- Baker’s Lake Younghusband Prairie, E Dundee Rd, west of Glencrest Dr
- Sponsored by Citizens for Conservation, track spring bird migration with naturalists on a guided walk. Bring binoculars and insect repellent, if desired, and dress for the weather. Duration of the walk is flexible, and participants can leave when they need to. Register or for more information, contact email@example.com or 847-532-5764.
Be a Better Birder: Tips for Learning to Identify Bird Sounds
- Thursday, May 25 * 6 pm
- Zoom Presentation
- Learn the skills needed to begin identifying local bird sounds. Register at https://be-a-better-birder-tips-for-sound.eventbrite.com.
Interested in helping birds during their biennial migration?
Whether you help restore our local natural lands or opt to make your home or office windows bird safe, there is plenty you can do to help our avian friends!
- Volunteer: Join an ecological stewardship day and do hands on restoration work to improve bird habitat or sign up for a community science program to collect critical information about plants and animals that contributes to academic research. Check out volunteer opportunities at fpdcc.com/volunteer.
- Plant Native Plants: Lawns provide almost no value to wildlife, yet Americans maintain an estimated 40 million acres of turf grass. Native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees provide habitat for birds and pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are also seeing population declines. Learn more about gardening with native plants from The Conservation Foundation and then get your yard certified as “Forest Preserves Friendly” through our joint Conservation@Home program.
- Keep Cats Indoors: Free-ranging domestic cats kill an estimated 1.3 to 4 billion birds (and even more mammals) each year.
- Make Windows Safer: Birds try to fly through transparent windows and reflective windows that mirror the sky or surrounding plants are just as problematic. Reduce transparency and reflectivity by using blinds, window films or decals.
- Avoid Pesticides: From rat poison to insecticides, pesticides impact more than just their targets—studies show they can move up the food chain and kill birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Avoid using pesticides in your own yard and, if you can, choose organic produce at the grocery store.
Need more resources?
Download a copy of the Forest Preserves’ birding checklist, find instructions on how to build a bird house, and view a full list of upcoming birding events and programs at fpdcc.com/birding.
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.