This park near Chicago attracts dozens of warbler species, Purple Martin, and Red-headed Woodpecker, among others.
By Jeff Reiter | Published: 2/20/2018
Visitors to Cantigny Park can enjoy two museums, beautiful gardens, and a 27-hole golf course. It’s a busy place, especially on summer weekends. But the birds don’t seem to mind, including the Wild Turkeys that patrol the grounds.
I started a birding program here in 2008, in partnership with the DuPage Birding Club. The monthly walks (March through December) are well attended and often attract new birders. We host the Birdwatching Open, our annual May birdathon, on the golf course. The event coincides with World Migratory Bird Day, and we usually find at least 80 species.
Besides turkeys, Cantigny is known for two birds uncommon to the area. Red-headed Woodpeckers favor the golf course habitat with its large oaks, and a thriving Purple Martin colony can be observed from May through July. Fifty bluebird houses dot the landscape as well. The park’s Chimney Swift tower, built in 2012, went unoccupied its first two seasons. But I’ll never forget the day I looked inside and found tiny white eggshells on the floor and a nest above. Success! Cantigny’s diversity of natural habitats makes it a worthy venue for birds and birders.
Jeff Reiter handles communications at Cantigny Park and writes “Words on Birds,” a newspaper column and blog. He is a past president of the DuPage Birding Club and received the Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award from Chicago Audubon Society in 2015.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Open woodland, wetlands, ponds, constructed native prairie, display gardens, and golf course.
Generally flat with a few gentle inclines. Paved and crushed stone pathways are wheelchair-accessible. A two-mile trail is wood-chipped.
158 species. Year-round: Wild Turkey, Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Red-headed Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cedar Waxwing. Spring, summer: Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Chimney Swift, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, up to 25 warbler species (in May), Yellow-throated Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Purple Martin. Rarities: Northern Shrike, Common Redpoll, Black-billed Cuckoo, Rusty Blackbird, Tufted Titmouse, Clay-colored Sparrow, Wood Thrush; Nashville Warbler on 2015 Christmas Bird Count.
When to go
From May through summer; birding is best when park opens at 7 am.
Visitor center has gift shop, food, restrooms, and infomation kiosk. Additional restrooms at education center. Binoculars available for borrowing at kiosk (free). Bird sightings posted at Chimney Swift tower. Monthly bird walks March through December.
A nonprofit park. Open to public. Regular parking $5; weekends $10, May through September. Fee waived for bird walks, and for those entering park on foot or bike. Bird on golf course during scheduled walks only.
Check new wetland area with native aquatics opening summer 2018. Idea Garden is a hummingbird magnet in late summer.
For more info
Cantigny Park, (630) 668-5161
St. James Farm, McKee Marsh, and Elsen’s Hill
These DuPage Forest Preserve District sites practically surround Cantigny. Elsen’s, part of West DuPage Woods, is outstanding for spring warblers.
10 miles southeast of Cantigny, off Rte. 53 in Lisle. Excellent for spring warblers, including Yellow-throated.