flying geese over lake silhouetted against sunrise

Anyone who comes into contact with birds should be aware that avian influenza cases are on the rise in Illinois and around the Midwest.

What is avian flu?

Avian influenza is a highly contagious virus that spreads naturally among wild birds, sometimes without causing illness. However, avian influenza can infect domestic poultry with devastating effects. Some so-called highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza may cause severe disease and high mortality in domestic birds like chickens and turkeys.

three white pelicans on a lake

In the spring, a remarkable migratory bird returns to the waters of the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Complex which includes the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. American white pelicans stop at the refuge to rest and refuel on the way to their summer breeding grounds in the north. While they’re here, they entertain birders and outdoor enthusiasts alike with their graceful flight, immense size, and impressive fishing skills.  

dark eyed junco bird perches on snowy branch

Spring is a mere 90 days away, and every year sightings of the first American Robin (Turdus migratorius) are hailed as the spring weather harbinger, but did you know we have a winter weather welcoming bird, too? It is that funky, fidgety, little member of the sparrow family — the dark eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).

crows roosting in tree tops at dusk with moon rising in background

When I sat down to write this blog, I didn’t have a clear topic in my mind. So, I did what I usually do when I want to think and looked out my office window. Through this window, I can see just the tops of three oak trees which today were covered with crows. I counted more than two dozen with more constantly coming and going. And I knew fall was well and truly upon us.

grackle bird perching on bird feed cage

The email came in sometime in May of this year. A colleague in Northern Illinois contacted me with a wild bird concern. A woman had found a dead bird in her yard for a second day in a row and was wondering if something was wrong that she had not heard about. 

I gave the standard answer: 

American Robin male bird

Spring has sprung! What nature-lover doesn't like to engage in a friendly little competition with their friends and family each year over who sees the first robin?

Bird lovers often keep detailed notes year to year comparing when the first robin was seen and hypothesize why they were early or late. I remember one cold, snowy New Year's Day in the concrete and limestone of downtown Joliet, I was shocked to see crabapple trees loaded with robins munching away on the frosty fruits. 

Naturalists have a mental checklist running year-round:

Cottontail rabbit babies in nest.

Spring is the season of new beginnings. Wildlife baby season in Illinois starts as early as February when great horned owls lay their eggs and frogs begin to call. Coyote pups are born in March and soon a flurry of animals continue courting, mating, and preparing for what will be the next generation of their species.