This Winter, Get Out Birding

A recent Daily Southtown story spotlights an effective, and safe, way to break cabin fever this winter: get out birding. From the barred owl to the tufted titmouse, the Chicago River system is home to numerous birds to spot during the winter months. Birders in the Chicago River system can also help collect important data about bird species in the watershed using apps and other reporting tools.

The Southtown story notes rare bird sightings including kiskadees which are not native to Illinois and “might have been blown off course by a hurricane,” according to the coordinator of the Plum Creek Nature Center at the Forest Preserve District of Will County, and one of Friends’ partners. Will County is home to the Plum Creek sub-watershed, and Plum Creek is a tributary of the Chicago River system.

Using apps and online reporting tools, “birders also contribute to important scientific information.” A good source to track and record bird hot spots is which is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. According to eBird, the top three spots in the Chicago area by bird species count are Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Illinois Beach State Park, and Jackson Park in Chicago. 

Data collected through apps by backyard birders can help inform initiatives like our Wildlife Framework Plan. Friends is leading a collaborative multi-year process to significantly enhance the ecological function of the Chicago River system as a habitat zone for endangered native species, including many species of birds that are facing unprecedented challenges due to the climate crisis. Working directly with urban wildlife experts, Friends’ initiative will identify an action list of species and location specific actions that we can take on together with our partners to improve the habitat health, connectivity, resiliency, and sustainability of the Chicago River system.

“Data collection showing where different types of birds and other species are located helps us to better plan for future restoration efforts, and everyone can play a role in collecting geographic data with today’s easy to use apps,” said Adam Flickinger, planning director at Friends of the Chicago River. “It’s exciting to imagine how all this collected information can be used to better understand patterns of urban habitat and to think about how it can be used to make improvements that are needed to create healthy urban natural areas that protect wildlife and enhance people’s quality of life.”

Birders can also contribute data by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count scheduled for Friday, February 12, 2021 through Monday, February 15, 2021.