We're all accustomed to seeing the usual menagerie of birds in the preserves — great blue herons, egrets, red-tailed hawks, etc. — but on Sunday morning, some visitors at Whalon Lake got a special treat when they spotted a pair of American avocets taking in the scenery.
These two birds were spotted in the wetlands by Rita Roz, and she posted the photographic evidence to our Will County Wildlife Facebook group.
The birds are an uncommon sight here. Their usual migration south takes them on a path far west of our area, but as is sometimes the case with bird migration, some veer off course.
"Most years, it seems small groups of wanderers pop up somewhere in the Chicago area during migration," said Chris Gutmann, the facility supervisor at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. "It just isn’t the same location every year."
For example, he said some American avocets were spotted around Four Rivers in April.
Ebird data shows just how lucky you would be to spot one, with only a handful of locations in the Chicago area reporting sightings this year.
American avocets have a somewhat unique appearance thanks to their slender, upturned bill. That bill has a very practical purpose, as they swish it from side to side in the water to catch aquatic invertebrates, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The birds spotted at Whalon Lake are only passing through, and if you're hoping to catch a glimpse of them, you're likely too late. After Sunday morning's reported sighting, other birders flocked to Whalon Lake to try to spot them, but they struck out. The birds likely have continued on their travels.
The most recent sighting once again confirms that you never know what you'll see out in the preserves, especially during migration season.
So when you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled. If it's a bird you've never seen before, it may be one that avid birders haven't either.
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