Birds Of Illinois

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the diverse avian species found in the state of Illinois. From the vibrant plumage of the American Robin to the striking red hue of the Northern Cardinal, this article delves into the scientific details and informative insights about these captivating birds.

Delve into the rich ecosystem of Illinois as we explore the behavior, habitat, and unique characteristics of species like the House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed Cowbird, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, and Eastern Phoebe.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and Downy Woodpecker are common birds found in Illinois.
  • Illinois has a variety of urban birds, including the House Sparrow, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, American Crow, and Common Grackle.
  • Woodland areas in Illinois are home to birds such as the Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.
  • Wetland areas in Illinois support bird species like the Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Canada Goose, Mallard, and Song Sparrow.
  • There are several small bird species in Illinois, including the American Goldfinch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Chipping Sparrow.

American Robin

An image showcasing the vibrant plumage of an American Robin perched on a blossoming dogwood branch

The American Robin’s distinctive red breast makes it easily recognizable among other bird species. This medium-sized songbird, scientifically known as Turdus migratorius, is commonly found across North America, including Illinois.

The American Robin exhibits interesting behavioral patterns, such as its habit of hopping across lawns and tugging at worms with its sharp beak. It is also known for its melodious song, often heard during the early morning hours.

In terms of habitat preferences, American Robins are commonly found in open woodlands, gardens, parks, and suburban areas with short grassy lawns. They build cup-shaped nests made of grass, mud, and twigs, usually positioned on a horizontal branch or ledge.

These adaptable birds are skilled foragers, feeding on a variety of insects, fruits, and berries.

Northern Cardinal

An image capturing the vibrant plumage of a male Northern Cardinal perched on a snow-covered branch, contrasting against the wintry landscape of an Illinois forest

Another notable bird species found in Illinois is the Northern Cardinal, which is known for its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest. The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a medium-sized songbird that is native to North America. It is a common sight in Illinois, where it can be found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, gardens, and suburban areas.

The Northern Cardinal is known for its beautiful song, which is often heard during the breeding season. It feeds primarily on seeds and fruits, but also consumes insects and other small invertebrates.

Conservation efforts for the Northern Cardinal focus on protecting its habitat and ensuring the availability of food sources. The population of Northern Cardinals in Illinois has remained stable in recent years, thanks to these conservation efforts. However, habitat loss and climate change continue to pose threats to this iconic bird species. Continued monitoring and conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the survival of the Northern Cardinal in Illinois.

Northern Cardinal
HabitatWoodlands, gardens, suburban areas
BehaviorFeeds on seeds, fruits, insects
Conservation EffortsProtecting habitat, ensuring food availability
Population TrendsStable, but threatened by habitat loss and climate change

House Sparrow

An image capturing the bustling cityscape of Illinois, showcasing a House Sparrow perched on a vibrant fire escape

House Sparrow, a common urban bird species, has adapted well to human-altered environments and is known for its aggressive behavior towards other bird species. This species originated in Europe and was introduced to North America in the 19th century. The House Sparrow has become a successful invader due to its ability to exploit anthropogenic food sources and nest in man-made structures.

  • Sparrows as pests:

  • House Sparrows are often considered pests because they compete with native bird species for resources such as food and nesting sites.

  • Their aggressive behavior towards other birds can lead to a decrease in the diversity and abundance of native bird populations.

  • House Sparrow habitat loss:

  • Urbanization and habitat destruction have resulted in the loss of natural nesting sites for House Sparrows.

  • However, they have adapted by nesting in buildings and structures, which has contributed to their success in urban areas.

Understanding the ecological impact of House Sparrows is important for managing their populations and conserving native bird species.

Dark-eyed Junco

An image capturing the ethereal beauty of the Dark-eyed Junco, showcasing its slate-gray plumage, contrasting white belly, and striking pink bill, while perched on a snow-covered branch in the winter landscape of Illinois

Amidst the discussion of the House Sparrow, it is worth noting that the Dark-eyed Junco is a common winter visitor to Illinois, often seen foraging for seeds on the ground.

The Dark-eyed Junco, also known as Junco hyemalis, is a small sparrow that breeds in the northern areas of North America and migrates south during the winter months.

Breeding behavior in Dark-eyed Juncos is characterized by monogamous pairs forming during the breeding season. Males establish territories and engage in courtship displays to attract females. Once a pair is formed, the female constructs a cup-shaped nest on the ground, typically hidden under dense vegetation.

Migration patterns of Dark-eyed Juncos vary depending on the subspecies. Some populations migrate short distances to nearby areas, while others undertake longer migrations, traveling from Canada to the southern United States.

Understanding the breeding behavior and migration patterns of Dark-eyed Juncos contributes to our knowledge of this fascinating species.

Downy Woodpecker

An image capturing the enchanting sight of a Downy Woodpecker perched on a slender tree branch in an Illinois forest, its distinctive black-and-white plumage and delicate red crown contrasting against the vibrant green backdrop

The Downy Woodpecker, a small but striking bird, is often found foraging for insects on tree trunks and branches. This species, scientific name Picoides pubescens, is known for its distinct black and white plumage, with a white belly, black wings, and a black barred back. The Downy Woodpecker has a short, chisel-like bill that it uses to peck at tree bark and probe for insects, larvae, and spiders. Its feeding behavior also includes consuming seeds and fruits, making it an omnivorous species.

Habitat preferences:

  • The Downy Woodpecker is commonly found in a variety of habitats including forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas.
  • It shows a preference for deciduous trees such as oak, maple, and birch, but can also be found in coniferous forests.

Feeding behavior:

  • The primary source of food for the Downy Woodpecker is insects, which it locates by drumming and tapping on trees to uncover hidden prey.
  • It also consumes seeds and fruits, especially during the winter months when insects are scarce.

Overall, the Downy Woodpecker’s habitat preferences and feeding behavior make it a versatile and adaptable species in its environment.

House Finch

An image capturing the vibrant beauty of a male House Finch perched on a blooming crabapple tree branch, showcasing its crimson plumage, delicate beak, and distinctive streaked feathers

With its vibrant red plumage and melodic song, the House Finch is a common sight in urban and suburban areas, often seen perched on feeders or in small flocks. This small songbird, scientifically known as Haemorhous mexicanus, is native to western North America but has expanded its range throughout the United States due to human activities.

The House Finch is adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats including gardens, parks, and shrublands. It prefers areas with ample food sources such as seeds, fruits, and insects. In urban areas, it frequently feeds on bird feeders and ornamental plants.

The diet of the House Finch varies depending on the season and availability of food, but it primarily consists of seeds and fruits. This bird’s ability to thrive in human-altered environments has made it a successful species in many urban and suburban areas.

Blue Jay

An image capturing the vibrant beauty of a Blue Jay in Illinois: a proud bird with cobalt blue feathers, striking white markings, and a distinctive crest, perched on a branch amidst a lush green forest

A few but strikingly, the Blue Jay is known for its vibrant blue feathers and distinctive crest, making it a standout among other bird species. This intelligent bird is a common sight in eastern and central North America, including Illinois. Blue Jays are known for their behavioral patterns, which include loud calls and territorial behavior. They are highly social birds and often travel in small groups.

When it comes to habitat preferences, Blue Jays can be found in a variety of environments, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. They are adaptable and can thrive in both urban and rural settings. Blue Jays are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of food sources such as nuts, seeds, insects, and even small vertebrates. They are also known for their ability to mimic the calls of other birds.

Mourning Dove

An image showcasing the exquisite Mourning Dove of Illinois, capturing its soft, muted colors as it gracefully perches on a tree branch, its elegant profile silhouetted against a vibrant sunset backdrop

How does the Mourning Dove differ from the Blue Jay, and yet, what similarities do they share in terms of their habitat preferences and feeding habits? The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) are both common bird species found in Illinois. While their physical appearances and behaviors differ, they do share some similarities in their habitat preferences and feeding habits.

In terms of habitat, Mourning Doves prefer open areas such as fields, gardens, and parklands. They are commonly found in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Similarly, Blue Jays are adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, woodlands, and residential areas. They are known to visit bird feeders for food.

Feeding habits also show some similarities between the two species. Mourning Doves primarily feed on seeds, grains, and fruits, while Blue Jays have a more varied diet that includes nuts, seeds, insects, and occasionally small vertebrates.

Overall, although the Mourning Dove and Blue Jay have different life cycles and behaviors, their shared preferences for certain habitats and feeding habits highlight their ability to adapt to various environments.

Mourning DoveBlue Jay
Open areas such as fields, gardens, and parklandsForests, woodlands, and residential areas
Primarily feed on seeds, grains, and fruitsVaried diet including nuts, seeds, insects, and occasionally small vertebrates

Red-bellied Woodpecker

An image capturing the vibrant beauty of an Illinois forest, with rays of sunlight filtering through the lush canopy, illuminating a Red-bellied Woodpecker perched on a moss-covered tree trunk

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a common bird species found in Illinois, known for its distinctive red cap and belly. This medium-sized woodpecker is characterized by its black and white striped back and its loud, rolling call.

Here are some interesting facts about the Red-bellied Woodpecker:

  • Behavioral patterns:

  • They are known for their drumming behavior, which involves tapping on trees to communicate and establish territory.

  • These woodpeckers have a unique feeding strategy, using their long tongues to extract insects and sap from trees.

  • Habitat and nesting preferences:

  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas with mature trees.

  • They typically nest in tree cavities, often using old woodpecker holes or excavating their own.

Overall, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a fascinating bird species with intriguing behavioral patterns and specific habitat and nesting preferences.

European Starling

An image showcasing the European Starling, a striking bird found in Illinois

Several invasive bird species, such as the European Starling, have had a significant impact on the native bird populations in Illinois. These non-native birds compete for resources, displace native species, and disrupt ecosystems. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of the European Starling is crucial for managing their impact.

The European Starling, scientifically known as Sturnus vulgaris, is a medium-sized bird with a glossy black plumage and yellow beak. They are known for their impressive mimicry skills and their ability to form large flocks. European Starlings are opportunistic nesters, often using tree cavities or manmade structures. They have adapted well to urban environments and can be found in both rural and urban areas.

In terms of diet, European Starlings are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of food sources including fruits, seeds, insects, and small vertebrates. Their feeding behavior is characterized by probing the ground and foliage for food and using their bill to extract insects from the soil or bark.

Migration patterns of European Starlings vary depending on the region. In Illinois, some individuals migrate seasonally, while others may stay year-round. Understanding their migration patterns is important for predicting their impact on native bird populations.

To illustrate the impact of European Starlings on native birds in Illinois, consider the following table:

SpeciesPopulation Before InvasionPopulation After Invasion
Native Bird A10,0005,000
Native Bird B8,0002,000
European StarlingN/A20,000

As shown in the table, the invasion of European Starlings has resulted in a significant decline in the populations of native birds A and B. This highlights the need for conservation efforts to mitigate the negative effects of invasive species.

American Goldfinch

An image showcasing the vibrant beauty of an American Goldfinch in Illinois

With its vibrant yellow plumage and distinctive flight pattern, the American Goldfinch is a conspicuous and captivating bird that frequents gardens and meadows. Known as Spinus tristis in scientific terms, this small passerine bird is native to North America, including Illinois.

Here are some interesting facts about the behavior and migration patterns of the American Goldfinch:

  • Behavior:

  • Diet: American Goldfinches primarily feed on seeds from various plants, particularly thistles and sunflowers.

  • Breeding: These birds are monogamous and build their nests in shrubs or trees, using plant fibers and spider silk.

  • Migration:

  • Seasonal Movement: American Goldfinches are considered short-distance migrants, moving within their local range in response to food availability and weather conditions.

  • Altitude: During migration, they tend to fly at low altitudes, often forming small flocks.

In addition to the American Goldfinch, Illinois is home to a diverse range of bird species, including the Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, and Red-winged Blackbird. These birds contribute to the rich avian biodiversity of the state, making it a haven for bird enthusiasts and researchers alike.

White-breasted Nuthatch

An image capturing the charm of the White-breasted Nuthatch in its natural habitat

As we delve into the fascinating world of Illinois birds, let us now turn our attention to the White-breasted Nuthatch, a charismatic species known for its ability to ‘creep’ along tree trunks and ‘forage’ for insects and seeds. This small songbird is easily recognizable by its blue-gray upperparts, white face and underparts, and black cap. White-breasted Nuthatches are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats including deciduous and coniferous forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. They have a wide range of behavioral characteristics, such as their unique habit of moving headfirst down tree trunks. They use their strong bills to pry open bark and extract insects, spiders, and seeds. They also cache food in tree crevices for later use. The following table provides a visual representation of the White-breasted Nuthatch’s behavioral characteristics and habitat preferences:

Behavioral CharacteristicsHabitat Preferences
Creeping along tree trunksDeciduous forests
Foraging for insects and seedsConiferous forests
Headfirst movement down treesWoodlands
Caching food in tree crevicesParks and suburban areas

These behavioral characteristics and habitat preferences enable the White-breasted Nuthatch to survive and thrive in various environments, making them a fascinating species to study and appreciate in the state of Illinois.

Black-capped Chickadee

An image capturing the essence of an Illinois Black-capped Chickadee - a small, plump bird with a black cap and bib, white cheeks, and a soft gray body, perched on a vibrant autumnal branch

What unique vocalizations and behaviors distinguish the Black-capped Chickadee from other bird species found in Illinois?

The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small passerine bird known for its distinctive vocalizations and behaviors. Found throughout Illinois, this species exhibits several characteristics that set it apart from other birds in the area:

  • Vocalizations:

  • The Black-capped Chickadee is known for its signature ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee’ call, which is used for communication within the flock and to warn of predators.

  • They also produce a high-pitched ‘fee-bee’ song during the breeding season to attract mates.

  • Behaviors:

  • This species is highly agile and acrobatic, often seen hanging upside down from branches while foraging for insects and seeds.

  • Black-capped Chickadees are known for their curiosity and fearlessness, frequently approaching humans and even landing on outstretched hands.

Habitat preferences, behavior, and communication are crucial aspects to understanding the unique characteristics of the Black-capped Chickadee in Illinois.

Tufted Titmouse

An image capturing the charm of an Illinois forest, with a Tufted Titmouse perched on a moss-covered branch, its silver-gray plumage contrasting against the vibrant green backdrop, while it delicately nibbles on a sunflower seed

The Tufted Titmouse, a common resident of Illinois forests, exhibits similar vocalizations and behaviors to the Black-capped Chickadee. These small songbirds are known for their distinctive crest, black forehead, and grayish-brown plumage.

Like the Black-capped Chickadee, the Tufted Titmouse is highly vocal, producing a variety of calls including the well-known ‘peter-peter-peter’ song. They are also known for their acrobatic foraging habits, often hanging upside down from branches to feed on insects and seeds.

In terms of habitat preferences, the Tufted Titmouse favors deciduous and mixed forests with dense understory vegetation. They are cavity nesters, using natural tree holes or abandoned woodpecker nests.

These behavioral patterns and habitat preferences make the Tufted Titmouse a fascinating species to study in Illinois forests.

Red-winged Blackbird

 the vibrant essence of Illinois' Red-winged Blackbird

Perched on a cattail, the Red-winged Blackbird sings a melodious song that echoes across the wetlands of Illinois. These charismatic birds are known for their stunning appearance and unique behaviors.

Here are some fascinating facts about the Red-winged Blackbird:

  • Habitat:

  • Red-winged Blackbirds are commonly found in wetland habitats, such as marshes, swamps, and meadows.

  • They prefer areas with tall vegetation and open water, as these provide ample nesting sites and food sources.

  • Behavior:

  • Male Red-winged Blackbirds defend their territories vigorously, often perching on prominent plants to display their red and yellow shoulder patches.

  • They engage in aggressive displays, including puffing up their feathers and vocalizing loudly, to deter rivals.

  • Red-winged Blackbirds are highly social birds and often gather in large flocks outside the breeding season.

Understanding the red winged blackbird habitat and behavior helps us appreciate the critical role they play in wetland ecosystems and highlights the importance of conserving these vital habitats.

Common Grackle

An image capturing the mesmerizing iridescence of a male Common Grackle perched atop a cattail, its glossy black plumage gleaming in the sunlight, with its golden eyes and long, sleek tail feathers adding to its allure

While foraging for food, the Common Grackle uses its sharp beak to probe the ground and snatch insects and small animals. Common Grackles are medium-sized blackbirds with an iridescent blue or purple sheen to their feathers. They are widely distributed across North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, farmlands, and wetlands. These adaptable birds are known for their gregarious behavior, often forming large flocks during the non-breeding season.

Here are some interesting facts and myths about Common Grackles:

Common Grackles are highly intelligent and have been observed using tools to obtain food.Common Grackles are considered bad omens and bring bad luck.
They are skilled mimics and can imitate the calls of other birds and even human voices.Common Grackles are believed to steal shiny objects and hoard them in their nests.
Common Grackles are known for their distinctive "grak" call, which is often heard during breeding season.Common Grackles are thought to damage crops and gardens.

Overall, Common Grackles are fascinating birds with unique behaviors and adaptations that make them a valuable part of our natural ecosystems.

Canada Goose

An image showcasing the majestic Canada Goose in its natural habitat in Illinois

What distinguishing features make the Canada Goose species easily recognizable?

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a large waterfowl species that is easily recognizable due to its distinct physical characteristics. Key features include:

  • Size: Canada Geese are one of the largest goose species, measuring up to 43 inches in length and weighing between 5 and 14 pounds.
  • Coloration: They have a black head and neck, white chinstrap, and brown body. Their breast is often lighter in color, ranging from gray to beige.
  • Honking Call: Canada Geese are known for their distinctive honking call, which can be heard during flight or while on the ground.

Habitat and behavior:

  • Habitat: Canada Geese are found throughout North America, inhabiting a variety of habitats including lakes, rivers, wetlands, and fields.
  • Behavior: They are highly adaptable and social birds, often forming large flocks during migration and winter. They are known for their V-shaped flight formation and are excellent swimmers.

Conservation status:

The Canada Goose is a species of least concern, with stable populations in most regions. However, localized overpopulation and nuisance issues have led to management efforts in some areas.


An image capturing the graceful elegance of a male Mallard gliding across the tranquil waters of an Illinois wetland, its vibrant emerald head and iridescent blue wings glistening under the warm sunlight

In the springtime, Mallards can be observed swimming gracefully in ponds and marshes, and they often gather in pairs or small groups.

Mallards, scientifically known as Anas platyrhynchos, are one of the most common and widespread ducks in North America. They are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, rivers, lakes, and even urban parks.

Mallards have a distinct sexual dimorphism, with males displaying a vibrant green head, white neck ring, and chestnut-brown chest, while females have a mottled brown plumage.

They are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of foods including plants, seeds, insects, and small aquatic organisms.

Mallards are known for their unique courtship displays, where males engage in head-bobbing, tail-raising, and whistling calls to attract females. They also form pair bonds that typically last for one breeding season.

Overall, mallards are fascinating birds that display a wide range of behaviors and have successfully adapted to various habitats.

Rock Pigeon

An image capturing the urban charm of Illinois' Rock Pigeons

A flock of approximately 400 rock pigeons was observed roosting on the ledges of a downtown skyscraper. Rock pigeons, also known as Columba livia, are a common sight in urban areas due to their adaptability to various habitats. They are native to Europe, but have successfully colonized cities worldwide.

Rock pigeon habitat:

  • Urban areas: Rock pigeons thrive in cities where they find ample food sources, such as discarded human food and grains.
  • Cliffs and rocky areas: In their natural habitat, rock pigeons nest on cliffs and rocky ledges.

Rock pigeon behavior:

  • Roosting behavior: Rock pigeons have a strong inclination to roost on high structures, like buildings and bridges, making skyscrapers an ideal habitat for them.
  • Social behavior: Pigeons are highly social birds that form large flocks. They communicate through cooing and head bobbing, establishing hierarchies within the group.

Understanding rock pigeon habitat and behavior is crucial for urban planners and conservationists to create suitable environments for these adaptable birds.

American Crow

The American crow, known as Corvus brachyrhynchos, is a highly intelligent and adaptable bird species found throughout North America. These birds are known for their distinctive black feathers and cawing calls. American crows are highly social and are often found in large groups called flocks. They exhibit complex behaviors such as tool use and problem-solving skills. These birds are opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide variety of foods including insects, small mammals, fruits, and carrion.

Conservation efforts for American crows mainly focus on protecting their habitats and preserving their nesting sites. These birds are generally not considered threatened or endangered, but their populations can be affected by habitat loss and human activities. Providing nesting opportunities and preserving natural habitats are important steps to ensure the long-term survival of these intelligent and adaptable birds.

Understanding their behavior and ecology is crucial for effective conservation efforts.

Song Sparrow

Three Song Sparrows were observed singing in a chorus, showcasing their melodious vocalizations and territorial behavior.

These small, brown birds are common in North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, marshes, and shrublands. Sparrows are known for their distinctive songs, which vary among individuals and can be used to identify different species.

Their vocalizations serve multiple purposes, including attracting mates and defending territories. Sparrows are highly territorial and will defend their nesting sites vigorously, often engaging in aggressive behavior towards intruders. They build their nests on or near the ground, typically hidden in dense vegetation, providing protection from predators.

Understanding sparrow behavior and habitat preferences is crucial for conservation efforts, as these birds play important roles in maintaining ecosystem balance and biodiversity.

Chipping Sparrow

During the breeding season, Chipping Sparrows often pair up with a mate and set out to establish territories by singing and displaying their vibrant plumage. These small, migratory birds can be found throughout North America, including forests, woodlands, and open areas with shrubs and trees. Chipping Sparrows primarily feed on seeds, berries, and insects, using their small, pointed beaks to extract their food from vegetation. They construct cup-shaped nests made of grass, bark, and twigs, usually hidden in the branches of trees or shrubs.

Conservation efforts for Chipping Sparrows focus on protecting their habitats and promoting sustainable land use practices. Providing nesting sites such as bird boxes and maintaining native vegetation can help support their populations. Additionally, reducing the use of pesticides and promoting public awareness about the importance of conserving these birds can contribute to their long-term survival.

Behavior and HabitatConservation Efforts
– Pairing up during breeding season– Protecting habitats
– Establishing territories through singing and displaying plumage– Promoting sustainable land use practices
– Feeding on seeds, berries, and insects– Providing nesting sites and maintaining native vegetation
– Building cup-shaped nests in trees or shrubs– Reducing pesticide use
– Promoting public awareness

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird populations have been steadily increasing in recent years due to successful conservation efforts. This beautiful species, scientifically known as Sialia sialis, can be found in various habitats across eastern North America.

Here are some fascinating facts about Eastern Bluebirds:

  • Habitat:

  • Eastern Bluebirds prefer open habitats with scattered trees, such as meadows, fields, and orchards.

  • They are often found nesting in cavities, such as abandoned woodpecker holes or nesting boxes provided by conservation organizations.

  • Behavior:

  • These birds are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a wide range of insects and other small invertebrates.

  • Eastern Bluebirds are known for their distinctive behavior of perching on low branches or fence posts and then swooping down to catch their prey.

Conservation efforts, including the provision of nesting boxes and habitat restoration, have played a crucial role in the increasing Eastern Bluebird populations. Understanding their habitat preferences and behavior can aid in further conservation efforts and ensure the continued growth of these stunning birds.

Cedar Waxwing

While discussing the birds of Illinois, it is worth mentioning the Cedar Waxwing, a species known for its unique plumage and distinctive call. Cedar Waxwings are a common sight in Illinois, especially during the summer months. These birds are known for their sleek, brownish-gray plumage, with a crest on their head and a black mask across their eyes. They have a yellow belly and a distinctive yellow tip on their tail feathers.

In terms of breeding habits and nesting behavior, Cedar Waxwings are social birds that often breed in loose colonies. They build cup-shaped nests made of twigs, grass, and moss, usually in the fork of a tree or shrub. They are known to lay 4-6 eggs at a time, which are incubated by both the male and female for about 12-14 days.

When it comes to diet and feeding habits, Cedar Waxwings primarily feed on fruit and insects. They are known to be highly attracted to fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, such as chokeberries, mulberries, and juniper berries. They also eat insects, especially during the breeding season, to provide protein for their growing chicks. Cedar Waxwings have a unique feeding behavior called ‘gaping,’ where they catch insects in mid-air by opening their bill wide, creating a gap to catch their prey. They are skilled flyers and can be seen performing acrobatic maneuvers as they catch insects on the wing.

Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker’s distinctive drumming behavior serves as a territorial display and a means of communication within their community. This medium-sized woodpecker can be found across North America, including in Illinois.

Here are some interesting facts about the Northern Flicker:

  • Flicker Migration Patterns:

  • Northern Flickers are migratory birds, with some populations traveling long distances during the winter months.

  • In Illinois, flickers can be seen year-round, but they may move to southern parts of the state or beyond during the colder months.

  • Flicker Habitat Preferences:

  • Flickers prefer open habitats such as forests, woodlands, and even urban areas with trees.

  • They are often found foraging on the ground for ants and other insects, using their long, sticky tongues to extract prey.

Understanding the drumming behavior and the migration patterns and habitat preferences of Northern Flickers can provide valuable insights into their ecology and conservation.


Killdeer are known for their elaborate distraction displays and high-pitched calls, both of which they use to protect their nests and divert potential predators. These small to medium-sized birds are part of the plover family and are commonly found in North and South America.

Killdeer exhibit interesting behavioral patterns, such as feigning injury to lure predators away from their nests. They are also known for their unique habitat preferences. While they can be found in a variety of open habitats including grasslands, farmlands, and even urban areas, they have a strong affinity for areas with bare ground or gravel, where they can easily create shallow nests.

Their preference for these habitats is thought to be related to their foraging behavior, as they primarily feed on insects and small invertebrates that can be found in these environments. Overall, the killdeer’s behavioral patterns and habitat preferences are fascinating aspects of their biology that contribute to their survival and reproductive success.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Wildlife researchers have observed that Brown-headed Cowbirds, a species of brood parasitic birds, often lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, leading to the abandonment of host eggs and decreased reproductive success. This behavior is a result of the cowbirds’ adaptation to their habitat.

Here are some key points about brown-headed cowbird habitat and behavior:

  • Habitat:

  • Brown-headed cowbirds are found in a wide range of habitats including grasslands, forests, and agricultural areas.

  • They thrive in open habitats with short grasses, which provide easy access to their preferred food sources.

  • Behavior:

  • Brown-headed cowbirds are known for their parasitic behavior, laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species.

  • They target a variety of host species and choose nests that are currently active, ensuring a higher chance of success.

  • The cowbird eggs often hatch earlier than the host eggs, giving the cowbird chicks a competitive advantage for resources.

Understanding the habitat and behavior of brown-headed cowbirds is crucial for conservation efforts, as their parasitic behavior can have significant impacts on host bird populations.

Belted Kingfisher

An interesting bird species found in Illinois is the belted kingfisher, known for its distinctive hunting behavior and vibrant plumage.

The belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a medium-sized bird that can be found near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and streams. These birds prefer habitats with steep banks or cliffs where they can excavate their nests. They are known for their unique nesting behavior, as they dig tunnels into the banks to create their nests.

In terms of diet, belted kingfishers primarily feed on fish, but they also consume other small aquatic creatures such as crayfish and amphibians. They have a specialized hunting technique where they perch on branches or wires near the water and dive headfirst into the water to catch their prey. Their long, sharp bills and strong neck muscles allow them to capture and swallow their prey whole.

Overall, the belted kingfisher is a fascinating bird species that has adapted well to its aquatic habitat and possesses unique hunting behaviors.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron’s distinctive grey-blue plumage and impressive wingspan make it a captivating sight along the waterways of Illinois. This majestic bird is a common resident of wetland areas such as marshes, swamps, and rivers. Its habitat and behavior are closely tied to these aquatic environments, as it relies on them for both food and nesting sites.

The heron is a patient hunter, often seen standing motionless in shallow water, waiting for prey to come within striking distance. It feeds on a variety of aquatic creatures, including fish, frogs, and small mammals. Despite its widespread distribution and adaptability, the Great Blue Heron’s conservation status is of concern.

Habitat loss, pollution, and disturbance from human activities pose threats to its population. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve the habitats that these magnificent birds depend on for their survival.

Eastern Phoebe

Perched on a tree branch, the Eastern Phoebe flicks its tail and scans the surroundings for insects to snatch mid-air. The Eastern Phoebe, scientifically known as Sayornis phoebe, is a small, migratory bird found in North America. It is known for its distinctive call and its ability to catch insects on the wing.

Eastern Phoebes have interesting migration patterns, with individuals traveling from their breeding grounds in the northern parts of the United States and Canada to their wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico. This migration typically occurs during the fall and spring seasons.

When it comes to nesting behavior, Eastern Phoebes are known to build their nests in various locations, including on ledges, under bridges, and even in man-made structures such as buildings and porches. Their nests are made of grass, moss, and other materials, and are typically lined with softer substances like feathers and fur.

Here is a table summarizing some key information about Eastern Phoebes:

Eastern Phoebe
HabitatForests, open woodlands, urban areas
DietInsects, spiders, small fruits
Size6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm)
LifespanUp to 10 years

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Birds Build Their Nests?

Birds build their nests using a variety of materials and techniques. They gather twigs, grass, leaves, and feathers to construct their nests, weaving and interlocking them to create a sturdy structure where they can lay their eggs and raise their young.

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Bird?

The average lifespan of a bird varies greatly depending on the species. Factors such as predation, habitat loss, and climate change can impact bird populations and migration patterns, contributing to declines in some species.

How Far Can Birds Migrate?

Bird migration patterns vary greatly depending on species, with some birds able to migrate thousands of miles. Factors influencing migration include food availability, weather conditions, and breeding patterns. Understanding these factors helps scientists study and conserve bird populations.

Do Birds Have a Specific Mating Season?

Birds, in general, have specific mating seasons that are influenced by factors such as availability of resources and favorable conditions. During these seasons, birds engage in courtship rituals to attract mates and ensure successful reproduction. Understanding bird migration patterns can provide insights into their mating behavior.

What Is the Purpose of the Different Colors on a Bird’s Feathers?

The purpose of the different colors on a bird’s feathers can be attributed to various factors. Bird feather pigmentation serves multiple functions, including camouflage adaptation, sexual selection, and signaling functions for communication and species recognition.


In conclusion, the state of Illinois is home to a diverse range of bird species. Some notable examples include the American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed Cowbird, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, and Eastern Phoebe.

These birds contribute to the ecological balance and biodiversity of the region. Further research and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the preservation of these avian populations and their habitats in Illinois.