Blackbirds signal spring migration
In early March, my boss, Michelle Jost, arrived at work wearing a huge smile. She heard a red-winged blackbird trilling nearby; that call meant spring! But to other Shedd staffers, that call meant "duck!" The red-wings that reside in Shedd’s gardens are notoriously protective of their nests. If you’ve ever had a blackbird dive-bomb your head, you know why we keep a wary eye toward the sky at this time of year.
To birders like me, however, the blackbird call signifies an exciting time of year: The great spring bird migration has begun!
Spring migration season kicks off on March 15 and continues for two months. Chicago’s waterfront location means that more than 300 migratory bird species have been spotted here on their journey along the Mississippi Flyway. Many of them turn to Chicago’s woods and wetlands, and even its backyard gardens for a much-needed stopover on the long flight north.
You’d be amazed at the variety of birds that migrate. While Shedd’s red-tailed hawks have a cozy place to stay, many younger red-tails fly south during rough winters. Owls, songbirds, ducks, shorebirds…even robins are passing through. If you see robins all year, you actually might be seeing two waves: the robins that live in your neighborhood during summer, and their northern relatives who fly south to you each winter.
Shedd’s lakefront location is an ideal spot for birds to rest before continuing north. This year, we finished our migratory bird garden, where diverse native plants provide visiting birds with food and shelter. We also lower our office shades and dim building lights to prevent birds from colliding with our windows. Whether the birds rest at Shedd, nest at Shedd, or just pass through, Shedd cares about keeping our migratory friends safe on their long journeys – even if they repay us with the occasional peck on the head.
Posted by Meg Matthews, conservation