Important Bird Areas

Chicago Lakefront


Beginning in the north from Montrose Harbor and continuing south through the Lincoln Park Sanctuary, Belmont Harbor, past Grant Park and south to Jackson Park and the Paul O. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, lie miles of Lake Michigan waterfront property, much of which is owned or manged by the Chicago Park District and contains copious vegetation. These areas are known as migrant traps because they capture birds flying south or north along Lake Michigan who become famished and need a place to rest. Various groups, too numerous to mention, which include volunteers and government and park distirct officials, have worked to improve the habitat needed for these migratory birds to rest and refuel.

These areas combined provide tremendous benefits to migratory birds.

Shorebirds, landbirds and raptors all make temporary homes along the Chicago lakefront -- and some species even remain to nest here.

The Magic Hedge, a group of shrubs and trees along Montrose Harbor, was created in the 1950s when the government allowed vegetation to grow tall around a U.S. Army missile base built here. Ecological restoration programs here, including creating native grass and shrub habitat, have attracted migratory landbirds including warblers and sparrows.

About one mile south of that is the Lincoln Park Bird Sanctuary, an area fenced in to give birds shelter while humans walk, bike and play ball in the park.

Further south along the lakefront, traversed by vehicles via Lake Shore Drive, is the world-renowned Field Museum and Grant Park where many migratory birds also stop to rest and feed.

Nearby is the McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary, a new prairie and shrubland habitat that supports thousands of native sparrows and other rare birds during migration.

Even further south is Jackson Park, which contains a 16-acre island of woods and shrubs surrounded by open water. The park is adjacent to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Further south still, the bird sanctuary at South Shore Cultural Center and Calumet Park also have important habitat for migrants.

Ornithological Summary

More than three-fourths of all bird species seen in Illinois have passed through or paused to rest and feed along the Chicago lakefront. The vegetation along the lakefront provides the rest and shelter birds need as they are migrating along Lake Michigan, which is on the Mississippi Flyway. In April, May, August, and September you can count at least 25 species of warblers here, many in sizeable numbers, along with orioles, grosbeaks, hummingbirds, vireos, flycatchers, sparrows, swallows and martins. Along the lakefront, Peregrine Falcons hunt for shorebirds and other species. Myriad duck species, scoters and loons also fly along the shoreline during migration.

Continued restoration at the lakefront parks will ensure migratory birds will have a place to rest and feed each spring and fall.

This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for migrants and Black-crowned Night-Herons.