100 Years of Birds Update

Three months have passed since we finished the 2013 Lincoln Park migratory bird survey.  From March to May, Research Intern Kelvin Limbrick and I slowly walked three separate 1.5-mile-long transects spanning the length of Lincoln Park, from Diversey Parkway all the way down to North Avenue.

Armed with binoculars and waterproof field notebooks, we aimed to recreate a bird survey conducted from 1898–1903 by Herbert Eugene Walter and his wife Alice. With these data we will make comparisons between the migratory bird community 100 years ago and today.

How was it in the field? Freezing in March, windy and wet in April and by the end of May we were the recipients of rather dramatic tan lines from our t-shirts and binocular straps (which we now refer to as biologist tans). Above all else we were truly amazed by the overwhelming species diversity we saw throughout the entirety of Lincoln Park.

Anything to Report?

With so much data to enter, we are about two thirds of the way through. We’ve currently entered more than 4,000 individual records of 113 different bird species into our database.

A gray catbird was one of 113 bird species spotted by the scientists during their transects through Lincoln Park. Photo by Forrest Cortes.

A gray catbird was one of 113 bird species spotted by the scientists during their transects through Lincoln Park. Photo by Forrest Cortes.

When the entry task is finished, we can move on to an analysis of the data. While it would be incredibly difficult to restore some of the bird species that previously used Lincoln Park as a migratory stopover point, this research will help identify bird species that have been negatively impacted by more than 100 years of urbanization as well as those who are more frequent because of it.

On top of that we can also quantify which area of Lincoln Park has the “best birding.” Do you think you know where it is? Let us know in the comments!

Mason Fidino

Mason Fidino is coordinator of wildlife management for Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.

  Follow the Urban Wildlife Institute on Twitter.




Is it possible that I saw 2 great blue herons and a green heron on the island in the south lagoon last week.

Re: Birding

We asked Mason, and he says, "Absolutely.  We have consistently been seeing black-crowned night herons, green herons and great blue herons for the last few weeks."

North Pond

I've always had great luck on the east side of the North Pond; this summer, a large group of juvenile black-crowned night herons has been hanging out over there, along with a few adults. I've spotted at least two individual Great Blue Herons, and even a few terns (Forsters?) dive-bombing for fish.

Re: North Pond

Thanks for sharing! We've been seeing black-crowned night herons and great blue herons at Nature Boardwalk as well.

Fort Dearborn Zoo Birdwalks

The Fort Dearborn Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society conducts bird walks every Thursday and Sunday morning in the zoo area in April, May, September and October, starting at the Bird House at 8:30 a.m. During the walks from April and May of this year, which included the Zoo, North Pond, Caldwell Lily Pool and Nature Boardwalk, we observed 102 species of birds and have already shared our results with Mason. We find that the North Pond usually provides the best overall birding on these walks, although the more open Nature Boardwalk produces some additional species not found at the North Pond.

Re: Fort Dearborn Zoo Birdwalks

Thanks for sharing, Mark--that's good to know!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <div>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may insert videos with [video:URL]

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.