Common Summer and Winter Birds Found in Illinois

Posted by Christy Caplan
Mississippi Kite

Are you a birder in the state of Illinois? They ask many questions about the state of birds in the region and are curious about the ones that stay year-round, the ones that show up in spring and leave by winter. 

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the type of bird that needs a boost most call the shrubland and savanna home; Those species include red-headed woodpeckers, brown thrashers and field sparrows. Grassland birds such as pheasants, meadowlarks and bobolinks have also dropped dramatically in the last 50 years.

Here's a list of the most popular birds based on Illinois birding sites.

Top bird watching hot spots in Illinois

Illinois Beach State Park

From Bird Watchers Digest:

"In fall and spring migratory songbirds including flycatchers, grosbeaks, tanagers, and dozens of species of warblers feast in the oaks and meadows. Shorebirds including sanderlings and the rarer red knot walk along Lake Michigan, searching for food.

"Waterfowl such as grebes, scaup, goldeneyes, and scoters move along the shoreline in late fall, with some lingering in winter. Irruptive cold weather species such as red crossbills and red-breasted nuthatches visit the park in winter, especially in the pine stands."

Montrose Harbor and the Magic Hedge

Volunteers around Chicago have worked to restore this important migratory hotspot. Among many restorations to the area, non-native bluegrass has been converted to taller native grasses, attracting migrating sparrows to the land.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin provides habitat for 110 species of breeding birds, including some uncommon grassland species.

"On an early June morning the site is alive with grassland bird song. Listen for the wolf-whistle call of the upland sandpiper, the rollicking song of the bobolink, and the insect-like song of the Henslow's sparrow.

"Midewin offers good winter birding, too. Short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks, and northern harriers roost and feed here during the colder months."

Mississippi Palisades State Park

More than 200 species of birds migrate through this 2,500-acre park, and nearly 100 of them remain to breed:

"In winter a key attraction is the dozens of bald eagles observed flying above the bluffs or at nearby locks and dams in winter. Also check pine stands in winter for crossbills, pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches. In March and April, as well as October and November, you can look for migrating waterfowl including American white pelican, gadwall, common goldeneye, and common merganser. April, May, August, and September provide opportunities to observe migrating songbirds including 34 warbler species.

"The north trail system offers habitat for breeding Carolina wren, yellow-billed cuckoo, wood thrush, veery, ovenbird, and scarlet tanager. Listen, and watch, too, for the boldly colored pileated woodpecker, a favorite at this park."

Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks

"Migratory waterfowl and songbirds visit the parks in spring and fall, especially in the woods around Lone Pine Shelter. American white pelicans stop along the Illinois River in spring and fall. In winter, bald eagles and unusual gull species feed at the nearby Army Corps Visitor Center and Lock and Dam. The Starved Rock Audubon Society sponsors a free Bald Eagle Days weekend every January.

"In spring and summer, visit the bottomland woods to search for pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, barred owl, and Carolina wren, which breed in the park."

Other birds of Illinois?

Check out the Goldfinch, Chickadee, Blackbird, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Grackle, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-Throated Sparrow, Cedar Waxing, Mourning Dove, Vultures, Oriole, Dark-Eyed Junco, Rock Pigeon, House Finch, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, American Goldfinch, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Columba Livia, Bluebirds, Sapsucker,  Cedar Waxwing, and Towhee.

Have you ever seen or heard of these wild birds? Please leave us a comment below!

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Common Summer and Winter Birds Found in Illinois