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Cook County Forest Preserves naturalist Ryan DePauw holds a great horned owl, the largest owl found in the region, at the River Trail Nature Center on Feb. 18, 2021. (WTTW News)

Animals that wouldn’t be able to survive on their own in the wild are getting the care they need, and are helping educate the public, at five forest preserve nature centers around Cook County. But during COVID-19, people aren’t allowed to go inside these centers, so the animals and their caretakers reach out virtually.

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The 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count runs Feb. 12-15. (Tina Nord / Pexels)

The community science project, held over four days every February, collects data that provides scientists with a long-term record of bird distribution across the globe, helping to identify trends that might be associated with urbanization or climate change.

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Birds that spend the winter in Chicago can handle the weather, experts say. (Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

There’s a misperception that birds such as geese and ducks need help finding food when it snows. If they couldn’t cope with Chicago’s winters, they wouldn’t be here, experts say. 

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Great Lakes piping plovers, like the one pictured, don't tend to spend the winters with their mate. (Vince Cavalieri / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Rose is spending the winter in Florida, while a sighting of Monty was recently confirmed in Texas. Trouble in plover paradise or the secret to the couple’s success?

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(Andreas Hoja / Pixabay)

Thousands of bald eagles spend their winter in Illinois and there are a number of prime eagle-spotting sites in the Chicago region.

Here’s where to see this raucous beauty near Chicago

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A male pileated woodpecker, distinguished from a female by the red stripe on his cheek. (Veronica Andrews / Pixabay)

With its flaming red crest and distinctive cackle, the pileated woodpecker is a favorite of birders, not least because it resembles Woody Woodpecker. Though sightings have been rare in urban areas, they can be found in the Chicago region’s forest preserves.

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Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area on the left, and the proposed section of Montrose Beach that would be incorporated into the protected area. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Chicago’s birding community is already preparing for the return of Monty and Rose, the piping plovers that captured national attention two summers ago when they made the surprising choice to nest on Chicago's lakefront. But will their favored habitat be secure in 2021?

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Cardinal. (tlparadis / Pixabay)

The National Audubon Society’s annual bird count is underway. Now in its 121st year, the tally gives researchers and conservationists a good picture of how North America’s bird populations are changing.

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Great Kiskadee (Liam Lysaght / Pixabay)

Great Kiskadees don’t normally roam north of Texas, so the first-ever sighting in Illinois caused quite a commotion, attracting birders from across the state to Will County.

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Sandhill cranes. (ladymacbeth / Pixabay)

More than 25,000 migrating sandhill cranes are making a pit stop at Indiana’s Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. The bird’s numbers have rebounded thanks to wetland conservation efforts, but now climate change threatens to undo that progress. 

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A red-tailed hawk, perched outside Jewel-Osco, 3400 N. Western Ave., on Nov. 21, 2020. (WTTW News)

A red-tailed hawk, stoically perched atop a chain-link fence, was spotted Saturday outside a Jewel-Osco in Roscoe Village. Raptors are more common in the city than most people think, said a local hawk expert.

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Isoo O’Brien

Meet a high school student who’s on a quest to see more bird species in Cook County than anyone, ever.

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Warblers are among the birds people can expect to see at Big Marsh. (Skeeze / Pixabay)

The all-day event Saturday will take advantage of a sweet spot in the migratory timeline, with organizers expecting to record outgoing and incoming species.

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The wingspan of the American white pelican is second only to the California condor. (Skeeze / Pixabay)

Join a hike Sunday in Will County, where a flock of American white pelicans, one of North America’s largest birds, is hanging out during its annual fall migration.

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Hundreds of millions of birds are migrating through the U.S. Sept. 3-6. (hollandevens / Pixabay)

Chicago’s bright lights lure birds from their migratory path. With hundreds of thousands of birds passing overhead this weekend, the city needs to dim its glow. 

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Yellow warblers are among the birds that have been banded for future identification at a new Chicago station. (Silver Leapers / Flickr)

North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds in the last 50 years. A new bird banding station at Big Marsh Park is part of a massive effort to figure out ways to help our feathered friends.