Illinois Birds: Pictures And Bird Identification Tips

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picture of a male Northern Cardinal, the state bird of Illinois, and part of the Illinois birds section

The people of Illinois chose the cardinal to represent Illinois birds. It’s a year round resident, common at backyard feeders throughout the state.

The more general topic of Illinois birds tends to be a bit more complex. Environmental planners in general and birders more specifically have adopted the concept of ecoregions as a tool for improved policy making. The logic goes that birds all have different habitat needs. If a state can be divided into different types of habitat and the birds they support, then the foundation for improving bird populations becomes one of habitat improvement or restoration.

Illinois birds can fit easily into that framework by dividing the state into a variety of regions. Formal presentations that rely on topographical and climate factors can organize the state into fourteen different ecoregions.

A quick layman’s look at a map and review of Illinois history reveals three important facts. First, most regions in the state are agriculture or prairie related. Illinois use to be a land of great plains, Over the years it has been converted for agriculture purposes.

Second, Illinois is highly urbanized, with Chicago as the urban center. It’s situated on the eastern edge of the state and bordered by Lake Michigan.

Therefore, third, Illinois is also a land of water, bounded on much of the east by Lake Michigan and of course bounded on the west by the Mississippi River. Riverboat trips along the Mississippi River offer tourists great birding opportunities. Historic stops in areas such as Galena and Quincy allow visitors great birding day trips, especially at the height of the migratory season. Birding the Mississippi flyway remains one of the great birding pleasures in the United States.

Together these few facts provide some introductory information about Illinois birds. They can easily be divided into land birds, especially grassland birds and water birds.

Illinois’ grassland birds have names not so common to many East Coast and West Coast birders generally unfamiliar with birds of that ecoregion. Greater Prairie Chickens, Grasshopper Sparrows and Henslow’s Sparrow make the list, along with the most well known grassland bird, the Meadowlark. Visitors to the state can easily add to their life’s list by photographing a few of the less well known grassland birds.

Urban Birding


picture of an American tree sparrow
Urban birding opportunities in Illinois also about for tourists. Generally the state’s largest urban areas (name here) provide information on local birding opportunities. City and county parks often publish brochures with local birding hot spots and season bird sightings.

Additionally, many urban residents, like their counterparts across the country put out the backyard feeders to attract year round residents and migratory visitors. One such year round resident, and popular feeder bird, the Cardinal, receives the honor of being the state’s official bird.

Most of the state’s urban birders also live daily with a couple dozen species familiar to most people in the east such as the American Tree Sparrow pictured in this section. Sparrows, crows, finch, jays, nuthatch, woodpeckers, wrens and more species still flourish in many urban environments.

picture of a male Common Goldeneye Duck
The state’s primary urban center, and biggest toruist draw, Chicago, follows this general birding trend. It should come as no surprise that Chicago offers birders a bit of everything. Start with Lincoln Park. Situated on the north end of Chicago with a shoreline along Lake Michigan, Lincoln Park always gets top mention as a premiere urban birding area.

The Lincoln Park birds checklist currently hovers around the 350 species mark. The list consists of both land and water birds such as the Common Goldeneye, one of a handful of duck species that enjoy the ponds and lakes around the city. The migratory season amplifies the number of species and total number of birds in the area.

Anyway you look at it, the park’s high number of species is a remarkable feat. Consider how many birders spend a lifetime and miles of travel to reach the 350 species mark. It might take a lifetime to observe all the birds in Lincoln Park. Nonetheless, neighbors never need do anything but get out of the house and either walk a few blocks or take a quick bus everyday.

The green birds button at the top of the page leads to more Illinois birds pictures and information to help with general ID issues.

The Illinois birds categories below divide into general topics to insure that all the backyard birds and most of the common wild birds are included. Choose a category and begin the adventure. The specific topic button on the left leads to information suited to answering basic bird identification questions.