5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Illinois

By April Dowling

5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Illinois

Illinois is home to hundreds of bird species thanks to the diverse habitats throughout the state. The preservation of these wetlands, prairies, beaches, forest, and marshes has protected these birds and allowed them to thrive. Many bird sanctuaries in Illinois offer refuges for migratory birds as well as endangered/threatened species. The following trails in Illinois are ideal for birdwatching! 

1. Little Black Slough Trail, Belknap, IL

Located in the Little Black Slough, the largest state-owned natural area, this trail is nestled within the forests featuring incredible wildlife diversity. More than 100 endangered and threatened plant and animal species occupy this incredible area, which has remained undisturbed for centuries. Hikers and bird observers can view many species of birds here including herons, mallards, geese, great horned owls, bald eagles, hawks, vultures, and doves. 

2. Horseshoe Lake State Park, Granite City, IL

Located in Madison County, Horseshoe Lake State Park offers some of the best birdwatching in the state. The area’s close proximity to the Mississippi River allows an ideal habitat for over 300 bird species including wading birds, waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, over 15 gull species, and many others. Hiking trails are available on Walker’s Island, where the Eurasian tree sparrow has been sighted. 

3. Jelke Creek Bird Sanctuary, Dundee Township, IL

Visitors come to the Jelke Creek Bird Sanctuary to enjoy a birdwatching adventure unlike any other. This protected area serves as a refuge for migrating birds needing a resting place. The public trails are accessible by foot, bike, and horseback, allowing visitors the opportunity to encounter birds flying overhead, swimming in ponds, and perched in trees. Many bird species including cardinals, woodpeckers, doves, chickadees, robins, and wrens have been spotted in this area. 

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4. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago, IL

This tiny site on located in Chicago on the Lake Michigan shoreline is actually a birdwatching hot spot throughout the year. Featuring over 200 bird species, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary attracts migrant songbirds, water birds, and much more. Visitors are advised to remain on the hiking trail to avoid disturbing the wildlife in this small area. 

5. Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Morris, IL

Located 50 miles southwest of Chicago, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is mainly a dedicated natural preserve and nesting habitat for threatened or endangered birds. Visitors can hike along seven miles of trails through the prairie and view a variety of birds including waterfowl, blackbirds, marsh birds, killdeer, great blue herons, great egrets, and the Henslow’s sparrow. Migrating birds including warblers, eastern kingbirds, and catbirds are prevalent in this beautiful area, as well. 

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