Sandhill cranes. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region)

Red-winged blackbirds, American robins, and sandhill cranes are among the species of birds Chicagoans have spotted in recent days on the leading edge of spring migration. But wait — according to the calendar, it’s still winter.

McCormick Place Lakeside Center's walls of glass and location on the lakefront are a deadly combination for birds. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Monday’s meeting of the McPier board was dominated by discussion of the mass death of 1,000 birds in a single day, killed after colliding with McCormick Place. Bird conservationists want a solution in place by spring migration.

A team at the Field Museum processes birds killed in collisions with McCormick Place during a massive migratory wave Oct. 4-5, 2023. (Daryl Coldren / Field Museum)

While the full tally of dead will never be known, wildlife advocates are certain of one thing: The vast majority of bird losses in the past week were preventable.

Field Museum staff collected 1,000 dead birds Thursday from the grounds of McCormick Place. (Courtesy of Taylor Hains)

Chicago is one of the deadliest cities for migrating birds and Thursday’s “insane abundance of migratory action” led to “insane mortality,” birders said. The remedy is as simple as flipping off a light switch.

Snowy owls like to perch on fence posts and telephone poles. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The snowy owl and the long-eared owl elicit the sort of reaction usually reserved for rock stars, including the intrusion of cameras into their personal space. Recent incidents involving aggressive photographers have reignited a debate over whether owls' locations should be shared publicly.

Some assembly required. Chicago's first Motus tower, during installation at Big Marsh Park. (Edward Warden / Chicago Ornithological Society)

The radio antenna, positioned at Big Marsh Park on the Southeast Side, helps fill a Chicago-sized gap in a growing network of receivers that's tracking the movement of migratory birds and other animals.   

(Tina Nord / Pexels)

What It Is. Why It Matters. How To Take Part.

One of the country’s longest-running community science projects is about to get underway. We’ve got all the details on Audubon Society’s 122nd annual Christmas Bird Count, including how to join the effort. 

The wrong-way small-billed elaenia, photographed Nov. 28, 2021, in Waukegan. (Courtesy of Geoffrey Williamson)

The sighting of a small-billed elaenia over the Thanksgiving holiday had bird lovers flocking to Waukegan from far and wide to catch a glimpse of this South American flycatcher, thousands of miles off course.

Vivid blue-green plumage and an unmistakable bright red bill are hallmarks of the male broad-billed hummingbird. (Courtesy of Nathan Goldberg)

Chicago birdwatchers were treated to a rare glimpse of a wayward hummingbird at LaBagh Wood, far beyond its normal range of the U.S.-Mexico border.

An American woodcock, aka, timberdoodle. (Flickr / USFWS Midwest Region)

The Chicago Ornithological Society has resumed small group bird hikes. Masks are a must, as is social distancing. 

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.

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. 

A piping plover on Waukegan Beach in 2018. (Ethan Ellis / Flickr)

More than 500 names were submitted for the chicks, which hatched in June, and the selected monikers reflect the history and spirit of Chicago.

A piping plover on Waukegan Beach in 2018. (Ethan Ellis / Flickr)

The three chicks hatched in mid-June and now local birding organizations have created a contest to give them names. Submissions are open through Wednesday.