Millions of Birds Fly Over Illinois During Annual Northward Migration – NBC Chicago

Millions of birds are taking to the skies over the Midwest this week as part of their annual northward migration, with more than five million birds crossing over the state of Illinois overnight.

According to BirdCast, a service of Cornell University and numerous research institutions, more than 5.3 million birds were recorded flying over Illinois Sunday night and into Monday morning, with many of those birds heading to their summer nesting spots.

After a bit of a lull overnight Monday and into Tuesday, BirdCast is projecting that migration levels will pick up Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with an estimated 450 million birds traversing the United States overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning.

Most of the Midwest will be at medium-to-high levels of migration activity during this time, including the Chicago area, while areas along the Mississippi River will see the highest amount of bird traffic.

Many species of birds spend their summers north of Illinois but pass through the Land of Lincoln during their spring migration, including Baltimore Orioles, yellow warblers and Nashville warblers, according to the BirdCast website.

Annual bird counts are a popular activity during this time of year, with hundreds of unique species visiting the state.

Aside from helping with those bird counts, residents can also help migrating birds in a variety of ways. According to officials, residents can turn off or dim non-essential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Dimming interior home lighting, or using blinds or shades to prevent light from escaping, can also help protect birds.

Researchers estimate that hundreds of millions of birds are killed in collisions with buildings, with light attracting and disorienting them as they travel under the cover of darkness.

Other urban threats, including toxic chemicals and even outdoor cats, can pose threats to migrating birds.

The city of Chicago is one of dozens of cities that participates in annual “lights out” programs, encouraging businesses in downtown to dim exterior lights and to shut off non-essential indoor lights during the overnight hours.

More information can be found on the BirdCast website.

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