May 6, 2017 – Counting Birds

Ducks, cranes, grackles, red wing blackbirds and other birds begin their spring migrations as early as March, many making the Chicago area their end destination, while other just pass through on their way to northerly breeding grounds. But May is the big month for hearing and seeing songbirds, as millions of warblers and other colorful birds pass through our area. According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, these birds are part of the avian order Passeriformes, which means small bird or sparrow-like. A unique vocal organ called a syrinx allows them to produce various musical notes, often several at the same time, and this is what allows them to warble their beautiful spring songs.

Spring is a busy time for birdwatchers, and many websites, such as BirdCast, can help us to track the birds on their journeys.

This morning, Louise Clemency, Supervisor of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Chicago Illinois Field Office and Nina Baki, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, join us in-studio to talk about spring migration and the various bird count activities happening this month that you can join in. We’ll also chat with them about Chicago’s International Migratory Bird Day Celebration coming up May 20 from 9am-11:30 at LaBagh Woods. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is funding the event and it’s being hosted by FPDCC. (You can sign up to participate on their Facebook page.) According to the International Migratory Bird Day website:

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) was created in 1993 by visionaries at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. From 1995 to 2006, the program was under the direction of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because of its consistent growth, IMBD is now the premier education project of Environment for the Americas.

IMBD continues to focus attention on one of the most important and spectacular events in the life of a migratory bird — its journey between its summer and winter homes. Today, it is celebrated in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Central America through bird festivals and bird walks, education programs, and Bird Day!

LaBagh Woods is located at Cicero and Foster avenues, on the city’s north side. And according to Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) board member and LaBagh steward Jeff Skrentney, “LaBagh has about 150 migrating bird species, and about 40 breeding species of birds, half of which also have populations migrate through LaBagh. Thus we have at least 170 migrating bird species that pass through. Taking out one-time vagrants, that number is about 155 species. LaBagh Woods is 160 acres, of which 80+ is oak savannah and wetlands, and is home to more than 500 species of plants, animals, fungi and insects as of April 2017, and we are making new discoveries weekly.” This weekend, Jeff is participating in the annual Illinois Natural History Survey Birdcount, and if we’re lucky today, we may be able to get a field report from Jeff.

By the way, if you want to get involved in birding in the Chicago area, this website is a good place to start.