Chicago's modern-day birding mecca, located on the Lake Michigan shore, is the place to see warblers, gulls, terns, sparrows, shorebirds, orioles, and rarities
By Demetri Lafkas | Published: 8/21/2009
Site of a Cold War-era military barracks, the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary is Chicago’s modern-day birding mecca. I enjoy birding it because, for a relatively small area, it’s always full of activity.
The so-called Magic Hedge, 150 yards of trees and shrubs, is one of the best spots. I also keep a close eye on the dunes and beach just north of the Hedge, as well as other spots along the lakefront.
The sanctuary is an important stopover for birds migrating along the lakefront or across Lake Michigan. Not only is it fairly active, but anything can pop up, especially during migration. I’ve watched many warblers in spring, including Hooded, Black-throated Blue, and Cerulean. And last fall I was lucky enough to see a Townsend’s Solitaire that showed up for a few days, a rarity from the west. The promise that virtually any bird is possible draws birders — from rank beginners to seasoned veterans — from all over Chicagoland.
If you make it to Montrose this fall, watch for Hooded Merganser, Sanderling, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Cape May Warbler, to name a few. — Demetri Lafkas
Demetri Lafkas is an avid Chicagoland birder. He is actively involved in the DuPage Bird Club and the Illinois Ornithological Society.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Beach, dunes, harbor, hedge, meadow, shrubs.
Mostly flat and narrow dirt paths. Steps lead to the sandy beach past the dunes. Not wheelchair-accessible.
More than 300 species, including gulls, terns, loons, scoters, shorebirds, sparrows, warblers, and thrushes. Depending on the season, common species include: Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, Cooper’s Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Caspian Tern, Chimney Swift, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Hermit Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song and White-throated Sparrows, Baltimore Oriole, and House Finch. Recent rarities: Burrowing Owl, Townsend’s Solitaire, Brant, White-winged Dove, and Spotted Towhee.
When to go
Spring and fall migration are best, but any time of year is worthwhile. Birds are most active in early morning and early evening.
Birdwalks occasionally conducted by local bird clubs. No amenities at the sanctuary. A few portable toilets near the harbor. Drive west on Montrose Ave. to find restaurants.
City park. Open daily. No fees. Free parking.
For more info
North Pond Nature Sanctuary
Hotspot Near You No. 15. Located at W. Fullerton Pkwy. and N. Cannon Dr. Songbirds, waterfowl, and herons. A great place to photograph birds.
Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Lincoln Park
Just south of Montrose Point at Lake Shore Dr. and W. Addison St. Warblers, cuckoos, and owls.