Below we've highlighted local and nearby birding locations that are particular favorites of our board and club members. Habitat improvement work is ongoing at several of them, ensuring that they will continue, and even improve, attracting birds. The club leads bird walks at many of these locations. We recommend that you visit them on your own as well. Check out these hotspots on ebird.org for recent sightings and an up-to-date list of birds seen there.
Beyond these, the Chicago region offers countless locations for excellent birding any time of year. Rather than trying to list them all, we suggest you visit the eBird website hotspot page, and go exploring. Explore Hotspots - eBird
We also recommend A Birder's Guide to the Chicago Region by Joel Greenberg & Lynn Carpenter and the Chicago Region Birding Trail Guide available online as a pdf: birding guide_final_ƒ.qxd,x-default (chicago.gov)
EVANSTON BIRDING SITES ALONG THE NORTH SHORE CHANNEL
Evanston offers a string of parks that run north and south along the North Shore Channel just east of McCormick Blvd. Restoration efforts to enhance native flora and improve wildlife habitat are ongoing at these sites. They act as magnets for migratory birds during spring and fall. Explore the parks one-by-one or visit several in a given day. Birding can be good on both sides of the channel. Green, Great Blue and Black-crowned Night Herons, as well as Belted Kingfishers and a variety of waterfowl, are often seen from the bridges that span channel.
James Park/Mount Trashmore, Evanston
A bit west of the North Shore Channel, can be accessed from Oakton Street, or from Dodge Ave. west of the Levy Center parking lot
James Park/Mt Trashmore, Evanston, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This 4.5-acre park has athletic fields and a good sized man-made hill, known affectionately as Mount Trashmore. Northern Mockingbird and Northern Shrike have been seen in the trees that line the sides of the hill. Long-eared Owls have occasionally spent parts of the winter there. Climb to the top of the hill to look for raptors during spring and fall migration.
Harbert-Payne Woods, Evanston
McDaniel Avenue between Main Street and Dempster Street, east of the North Shore Channel
Harbert Park, Evanston, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
Previously known as Harbert Park, this 13.5-acre site has long been a favorite among local birders. A good assortment of waterfowl, waders and gulls can be viewed along the channel. The trees and shrubs in the park provide good forage and shelter for spring and fall migrants, especially warblers, vireos, sparrows and other passerines. Its eBird checklist has more than 157 species. Recent habitat restoration by community volunteers has begun removing invasive plants and adding native plants. As these new plants become established, the bird activity will improve even more. At this writing, this hotspot appears on eBird under Harbert Park.
Ladd Arboretum, Evanston
2024 McCormick Boulevard
Ladd Arboretum/Grady Bird Sanctuary, Evanston, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This narrow strip of land wedged between McCormick Blvd and the west side of the channel runs north and south between Church Street and Green Bay Road. Look for Caspian Terns, Great-blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and gulls flying above the treetops along the channel. Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons are often seen along the banks. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and passerines abound among the deciduous trees, conifers and shrubbery in the park.
A bike trail and a walking path run through the Arboretum. There are various planned gardens in the southern portion; the more natural plantings are located north of Bridge Street. The Evanston Ecology Center and the Grady Bird Sanctuary are in this section. The Grady sanctuary was designed with a small water feature, which sadly has not been operating in recent years. Twiggs Park and Butler Park, which run along the opposite (east) side of the channel, can be worth a look, if time allows.
Canal Shores Golf Course
1030 Central St, Evanston
Canal Shores Golf Course, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
The course runs along the North Shore Channel from northern Evanston into Wilmette. About half the property is golf course; the other half offers wonderful habitat for birding. There are wooded areas as well as small wetland and open meadow areas. Volunteers work to improve the habitat, removing invasive species such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet, replacing them with native shrubs and trees. There are two designated Birding Loops on the property.
Note: Before you go, be sure to visit Home - Canal Shores Golf Course From there, click on the Ecology tab and select from the drop-down list. It is recommended that you read the pdf, Birding at Canal Shores, for helpful information on how and when to access the property, parking etc. Under the Ecology tab you will also find maps for the birding loops, a list of birds at Canal Shores and a basic bird identification guide.
OTHER EVANSTON BIRDING SITES
Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary, Evanston
On Sheridan Road at Clark Street
Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary, Evanston, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This 2-acre sanctuary was established in 2015 on a narrow strip of land along Lake Michigan. Its intent is to provide a safe rest stop, with food and shelter, for migrating birds. The sanctuary is fenced, but birds are easily viewed from outside the fence. It has proven to be a great place to see sparrows, thrushes, warblers, vireos and flycatchers in spring and fall. Spotted Sandpiper has nested there. Waterfowl and gulls can be seen from the beach.
A bird monitoring program began in 2016 and at this writing 194 species have been recorded. We ask that you add your sightings to the CSBBS hotspot on eBird to help us track bird activity in the sanctuary.
Note: Evanston North Shore Bird Club officially adopted this site when it was established. Read more about its history under the Projects tab on our website..
Perkins Woods, Evanston
Ewing Avenue and Grant Street in NW Evanston
This 7.5 acre property is part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and is likely the most popular birding site in Evanston. A small patch of remnant forest in a residential neighborhood, it attracts an abundance of migrant land birds. Paved paths start at various points along the adjacent streets and meet in the center. You can expect a beautiful display of wildflowers in spring. ENSBC members have been caring for the woods since the 1950s; it offers birdwalks in May and September.
Perkins Woods, Evanston, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
Northwestern University Evanston Campus
The campus runs north and south along Lake Michigan, from University Place on the south to Lincoln Street on the north
Northwestern University (Main Campus and Lakefill), Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
Birders and birds of all types have long been attracted to this beautiful campus. It is filled with trees and shrubs, offers a manmade lagoon, playing fields and beautiful lakefront. At the time of this writing, 284 species have be recorded here, including many rarities. Migrants of all types are found in large numbers in spring and fall all along the lakefront, and NU is no exception. Fall brings raptor and water bird migrations. In winter, gulls and flocks of diving ducks can be observed from the shore. Be sure to bundle up!
Parking without a permit is allowed in NU parking lots on weekdays before 8 am and after 4 pm and all day on Saturday and Sunday.
NEARBY BIRDING SPOTS BEYOND EVANSTON
800 Gillson Park Drive, Wilmette
Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This 60-acre Lake Michigan lakefront park is popular with birders in all seasons. It offers a harbor, a long sand beach, grassy areas with many beautiful shade trees and evergreens, and a wildflower garden. Ducks and geese are often present in the harbor and along the shore, while during migration many varieties of song birds are seen. The shoreline here juts fairly far out into the lake, making it a favorite spot for offshore waterfowl viewing during migration. Parking in the park is open during the winter months but restricted to pass holders during the summer season. Parking outside the park, on Michigan Avenue along the west side of the park, is free,
Air Station Prairie
2400 Compass Road, Glenview
Air Station Prairie, Glenview, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
These 32 acres comprise what natural area remains of the former Naval Air Station Glenview. In 2017 it was designated an Illinois Nature Preserve. The southern portion, approx. one-third of the site, is mitigated wetlands. Woodcocks nest on the site and can be found displaying in March. Sightings of migrating dabbling ducks, herons, bitterns, snipe, other marsh birds and waders are common in spring. Birders flock to ASP in May through early summer for easy viewing of the Sora and Virginia Rails and Spotted Sandpipers that nest here. A King Rail made an appearance one year and stayed a few weeks. The pools tend to dry up in the summer, depending on rainfall, but it can be worthwhile to check for migrating shorebirds in late summer.
The northern two-thirds of the site is remnant prairie. Eastern Meadowlark, Song and Savannah Sparrows, Willow Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird nest here. Sedge Wren has been heard singing in June.
A gravel path extends from the visitor center north to where the prairie begins. Mowed paths are maintained through portions of the prairie. The prairie are very wet in spring, with standing water several inches deep in some parts. It's best to wear rubber boots. Be forewarned, ASP is famous for its healthy tick population. Tuck your pant legs and/or spray with repellent when venturing off the gravel path.
Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve – Erickson Woods
Willow Road, immediately east of the I-94 Edens Expressway, Winnetka
Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve--Willow Rd., Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
Skokie Lagoons, an 894-acre site, is owned and maintained by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. All parts of it are worth a look for birds, depending on time of year. The section between Willow and Tower Roads, just west of the lagoons is known as Erickson Woods and is the most popular with birders.
Spring is considered the best time here, but birding is also good in fall. In early spring, scan the water for waterfowl; a variety of gulls can be seen overhead. Look for shorebirds along the banks. In April, look for sapsuckers, thrushes, kinglets, sparrows and flycatchers; swallows skim over the water. The lagoons are a hotspot for warblers in May; it's not uncommon to see 20 species in a day.
Parking in the lot off Willow Road is free. From there, walk east across the lawn to the footbridge over a little stream. There is a paved bikepath on the east side of this stream and an unpaved bridal path on the west. Birders generally go north on one of these, cross over to the other side just before reaching Tower Road, then walk south to complete the loop and return to the parking lot. But before heading north, be sure to stop in the picnic area just east of the footbridge. Birding the edges of this little meadow and at the water's edge can be spectacular. There are also rough foot trails throughout the wooded areas along the lagoon where birding can be exceptional, if the trails are not too muddy.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
The Chicago Botanic Garden offers nearly every habitat a birder could want! 300 acres of lagoons, remnant wooded areas, a recreated prairie, a wildflower-filled woodland walk, and native plantings, plus a total of 27 display gardens, such as an English walled garden, Japanese Islands, an extensive rose garden and areas featuring bulbs, fruit, vegetables. In McDonald Woods, at the waterfall and along a walk lined with crab apple trees, you’ll see warblers and other passerines in migration. The lagoons attract ducks, grebes, mergansers, herons and egrets. An Osprey is often seen flying overhead and fishing. The garden, especially the feeders by the Visitor's Center, is popular with birders looking for the winter finches – crossbills, redpolls and siskins.
There are paved roads and paths as well as unpaved trails. Admission is free for members; a parking fee is charged per vehicle for nonmembers. The garden is popular with people of all stripes and it can get crowded. Birders will do well to come early in the day and avoid weekends.
Ryerson Woods Conservation Area
21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods
Ryerson Conservation Area, Lake County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
565-acre Ryerson Woods, a Lake County Forest Preserves property, offers a variety of habitats including prairie, wetland, northern flatwoods forest and most of the floodplain forest left in northeastern Illinois. Half the land is an Illinois Nature Preserve, supporting state threatened and endangered species as well as exceptional natural areas. More than 215 bird species and nearly 600 species of flowering plants have been recorded here. Over 6.5 miles of trails wind through woods to the Des Plaines River. Birders love this site, especially in spring and fall when warblers and other passerines pass through. Wading birds and river waterfowl also frequent this special place. Other features are Brushwood, formerly the Ryerson family home, and the Welcome Center, with its information desk, educational activities and family-oriented nature programs.
1421 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview
The Grove, Glenview, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This Glenview Park District property is a National Historic Landmark and an Illinois Nature Preserve. The property consists of 143 acres of undisturbed oak savanna and wetlands, with 3.1 miles of looping trails and boardwalks. Birders can expect to find a variety of flycatchers and forest birds such as tanagers, grosbeaks and cuckoos. Wood Ducks are sure to be spotted in the wetlands.
Note: Be sure to get a trail map at the Interpretive Center, as the loops in the trail can be confusing. Be aware that wet weather may cause water to pool on the trails.
The Grove is a treasured resource for educational programs and exhibits on nature, pioneer history and Native American culture. Its newly renovated Interpretive Center includes many live animals on display, especially fish and reptiles.
Emily Oaks Nature Center
4650 Brummel Street, Skokie
Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This Skokie Parks District property is a 13-acre oak woodland, with scattered savanna and prairie patches. The woodland habitat attracts woodpeckers, thrushes, warblers, orioles and bluebirds, depending on the season. The 3-acre Kessem Pond attracts a variety of water birds and waders, such as Wood Ducks, Solitary Sandpipers and Great Blue and Black-crowned Night Herons.
The site has wheel-chair accessible, paved walking paths. The Skokie Valley bike trail passes immediately west. The nature center offers a wide variety of activities for children and adults, an ever-changing exhibition of nature-themed artistic works and a log of bird sightings.
West Ridge Nature Park (Park 568) (opened 2015)
5801 N. Western Ave. Chicago
West Ridge Nature Park, Cook County, IL, US - eBird Hotspot
This 21-acre site was originally part of Rosehill Cemetery, a wildly overgrown tangle of vegetation around a hidden pond, treasured by birders in-the-know. The Chicago Parks Department acquired the property, fenced it in and transformed it into a park, with naturalized plantings and walking paths. It's still a good place to bird, especially during spring and fall migration.
A good size pond attracts waterfowl and wading birds, appealing to birders and photographers. The area at the NE corner, which borders the cemetery, is good for passerines, especially warblers and sparrows. The wooded area to the south of the entrance is also good for passerines.
If time allows, check out the 350 acres of trees, shrubs, lawn and pond of Rosehill Cemetery proper.