Hotspots Near You

26. Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois

Spot Northern Saw-whet Owls, crossbills, migrating warblers, vireos, and other birds just west of Chicago.

The Arb, as it is known among birders, is the place to find Northern Saw-whet Owls in northern Illinois in the winter. It also contains premier habitat in the state for White-winged and Red Crossbills during invasion years. And it’s consistently the best place to find Red-breasted Nuthatches. Woodpeckers, including Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Eastern Bluebirds are fairly common during the winter.

Spring is the best time to bird the area; as many as 20 species of warbler can be seen in a day. The highlight is the Yellow-throated Warbler, which stays to breed. As recently as seven years ago, it was the toughest warbler to get in DuPage County. Today, a typical spring bird count tallies five to seven singing males on territory. Most stay into late July.

The arboretum has a large population of Eastern Bluebirds, thanks to an extensive nest-box program, and birds of southern affinity occasionally spend the summer. Summer Tanager, Hooded Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher have been found on territory in June. In addition, northern breeders like Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, and Red-breasted Nuthatch have nested near Hemlock Hill.

Fall can be great for berry-eating birds. Viburnums and ornamental plantings attract thrushes, vireos, robins, and waxwings. State rarities such as Bohemian Waxwing and Townsend’s Solitaire have been found in mixed flocks. One of my most memorable experiences came in mid-September, when my wife and I counted 400 Swainson’s Thrushes and 500 Red-eyed Vireos in a grove of arrowwood viburnums. — Jeff Chapman

Jeff Chapman is past president of the DuPage Birding Club. He also wrote about Greene Valley Forest Preserve, Naperville, Illinois, Hotspot Near You No. 71.


26. Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois


The Morton Arboretum, a showcase for more than 4,000 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants, is located 25 miles west of Chicago, just north of I-88 (East-West Tollway). From the Eisenhower Expy., go west on I-88 about 10.5 miles. Exit north onto Rte. 53 and drive half a mile to the arboretum entrance on the right.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
41°48’51.25N 88°4’16.73W

Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, Illinois 60532-1293
Phone: (630) 968-0074


Oak savannah, mixed woodland, prairie, conifer woodland, and plants from around the world.


Mostly flat. Wood-chip trails meander throughout. Asphalt trails are wheelchair-accessible.


Wintering Northern Saw-whet Owls and winter finches, especially crossbills. Breeding Yellow-throated Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, and occasionally Golden-crowned Kinglets. Migrating warblers, vireos, and flycatchers can be abundant. Rarities: Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Kingbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Hermit Warbler.

When to go

Spring and fall migrations are best. One hundred species can be seen in spring. Winter can be good, especially when finches invade.


Visitor center with restaurant, store, and information area. Restrooms at all buildings, as well as at various parking areas. Arboretum map available from guard shack upon entry.


Nonprofit arboretum. Grounds open from 7 to 7 or sunset. Admission: adults $9, seniors $8, youth $6, children 2 and under and members free.


Best areas to bird east of Rte. 53: Pine Family Collection in winter, main trail loops in migration, Main Trail Loop 4 in summer. Best areas west of Rte. 53: Joy Path in migration and winter, Hemlock Hill in winter, Parking Area 23 and Pine Hill in migration and summer. Parking Areas 2, 23, and 25 are best for Yellow-throated Warbler.

For more info

DuPage Birding Club
Chicago Area Birding
Illinois Ornithological Society
Chicago Audubon Bird Report, (847) 265-2118
Chicago Audubon Society

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