If you visited the zoo lately, you may have noticed many of the animal exhibits have soaped windows. Don’t worry—it’s not some abandoned cleaning project. Instead, the streaks are part of a seasonal effort to help millions of birds passing through Chicago on fall migration.
A red wolf visible through a gap in the soaped windows at the Pritzker Family Children's Zoo.
The city gets so much migratory traffic because it stands on the Mississippi flyway, a migratory route that begins in Canada, passes down the Great Lakes and continues down the Mississippi through the Gulf of Mexico. To take advantage of food where it’s most plentiful, birds fly south along the flyway in fall and north again in spring.
Soaping windows helps birds avoid flying into the glass during this busy migration season, which extends to the end of October. There are also other steps that we—and you—can take to help migratory birds.
Turn off lights in empty offices—artificial lights can disorient migrating birds.
Remove plants from windowsills—birds may try to fly through for a closer look.
Close blinds to help birds see windows.
A black-and-white warbler hanging upside down at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo by Mason Fidino.
One happy consequence of fall migration is that it makes for some spectacular bird sightings at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Coordinator of Wildlife Management Mason Fidino recently spotted a brown thrasher there, a species in greatest need of conservation in Illinois. Black-and-white warblers, red-breasted nuthatches, belted kingfishers, Swainson’s thrush and common yellowthroats are among the other birds stopping to rest and refuel at the zoo’s urban oasis.
Make the most of the fall weather—come to Nature Boardwalk this weekend to see what you can spot yourself!