| Story by Meghan McMahon |
As darkness begins to creep up earlier in the evening and our mornings and nights bring with them that chill that means summer is on its way out, it’s also time to turn our eyes to the skies to watch for birds migrating south for the winter.
Bird migration in northern Illinois starts as early as August and continues into November and even December. The earliest birds to fly through on their way south are songbirds, such as grosbeaks, tanagers and warblers.
“The vast majority of songbirds are insect-eaters and, of course, if they stayed here during the winter, they would starve because it’s too cold for insects to be out and about,” said Chris Gutmann, a facility supervisor for the Forest Preserve District.
In fact, Gutmann said this is typically the prime time for songbirds to travel through our area, but this year the usual pattern has been disrupted by a significant weather force – Hurricane Florence – that is slowing migration.
A little later in the migration season, toward the end of September, we typically see more hawks as they pass through our area, according to Bird Watcher’s Digest. In October, the migration continues, with ducks, loons and sparrows becoming common sights on their journey south.
One of the more anticipated migrations each fall is that of the sandhill cranes, which can often be seen in our area in October and November. Thousands of these noisy birds congregate each fall at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville, Indiana. The peak time for the sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski is mid-November, although they start congregating in September and typically stay through mid-December.