Getting Ready for Spring

With high temperatures in the upper 40s this week, it’s finally starting to feel like spring is just around the corner. (I know I’m getting ready to pack up my winter clothes any day now!)

What are the birds at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo doing in anticipation of springtime?

1. The Canada geese are making a lot of noise lately! They’re honking and chasing one another around, heads down. This behavior is territorial. Now is the time when the geese will be pairing up and choosing nest sites, which they will actively defend.

. An American coot has been hanging out at Nature Boardwalk for the last few days. Today I watched the coot foraging, diving beneath the water and pulling up underwater vegetation. If you look closely, you can see that, unlike ducks, the coot doesn’t have webbed feet. The coot’s greenish feet have toes individually shaped like little paddles, which help it swim and dive.

The coot’s presence alone indicates spring is near, as we’re located in the breeding range for this bird. So far I’ve only seen one at the site, but I’m keeping an eye out for any newcomers.

3. Black-crowned night herons have nested in the area for years. We’re watching for them to return, as the species shows nest site fidelity, meaning they typically come back to the same rookeries year after year. Their nests, high up in the trees, have survived the brutal Chicago winter, including a historic blizzard. Pretty impressive!

Vicky Hunt

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