CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller invite every Illinoisan to get outside and celebrate the 21st annual International Migratory Bird Day culminating with a statewide “Spring Bird Count” on Saturday, May 10.
“When birds flourish, people flourish,” Governor Quinn said. “Whether you’re awestruck by the Sandhill cranes or American white pelicans passing through or just enjoy seeing new visitors to your backyard, now is a great time to welcome, enjoy and honor our feathered friends.”
“Illinois is home to vital stopovers for migrating birds each spring,” Director Miller said. “Migration is at its peak in May, and birds can be seen resting from their travels in our Illinois State Parks, Nature Preserves, and even local parks.”
International Migratory Bird Day was created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in 1993, and was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It has since grown into a global celebration now sponsored by the not-for-profit Environment for the Americas. Last year, thousands of birders participated in 500 events in all 50 states and 20 nations. The event celebrates the lives of birds that take them across international boundaries on their migratory journeys throughout North, Central and South America.
Birding events are scheduled across Illinois this week, including a bird walk hosted by the Urbana Park District, and at many sites along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. And on May 17, an all-day event will occur at the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge “Lost Mound Unit” (formerly the Savanna Army Depot).
Residents can choose from a range of events in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. A Migratory Bird Festival is scheduled at the Sagawau Environmental Nature Center in Lemont, and morning bird walks will be led by naturalists at the Trailside Museum in River Forest, Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland, Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Willow Springs, Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills, and North Park Village Nature Center in Chicago. A unique “Birding/Paddling” event is set for Skokie Lagoon.
The Illinois Spring Bird Count was started 40 years ago by Vern Kleen, then an ornithologist with the Illinois Department of Conservation. The Illinois Natural History Survey now coordinates the Spring Count. Volunteers count as many species and individuals as they can from dawn to dusk. Last year, the Illinois Spring Bird Count logged a record-high 275 different bird species. To see a breakdown of data collected in past years, visit: http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/databases/sbc/about.html
To find the 2014 Spring Bird Count compiler in your county, visit: http://home.comcast.net/~ugeiser/birds/sc_index.html
The theme for the 2014 International Migratory Bird Day is “Why Birds Matter.” Birds are crucial to the ecosystem by pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and controlling pests. Birds enhance our quality of life with their bright colors and early morning songs.
Governor Quinn has worked to protect critical habitat for birds since his time as Lieutenant Governor. In 2003, he led a grassroots battle to save Plum Island (in the Illinois River near Starved Rock State Park) from development. Plum Island is a valuable winter roosting site, and today, eagle-watching days at Starved Rock and in several other Illinois locations generate tourism revenue and foster continued stewardship.
Birdwatching is among the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the United States. Illinois is home to many birding clubs, including several chapters of the Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois Ornithological Society, DuPage Birding Club, Rockford Bird Club and others.