A wood duck floating on water.
Wood Duck In May, wood ducks begin searching for nest cavities in trees along the Illinois River and the prairie is a lush growth of green. © Shutterstock

Stories in Illinois

Illinois Nature Notes for May

Find out which plants and wildlife you can spot this month!

The increasingly warmer days at Spunky Bottoms brings snakes and frogs from their winter hibernation to the floodplain wetlands, while wood ducks begin searching for nest cavities in trees along the Illinois River and the prairie is a lush growth of green.

The South Patrol Road prairie at Midewin sings with gray treefrogs and is decorated with vibrant blue flag irises.

The Cache River Wetlands are truly a site of spring’s regeneration as copper iris begin to bloom, coyote and beaver pups make their first appearance, green tree frogs begin to call, hummingbirds and chimney swigs begin to nest, wood ducks hatch from their eggs and rose-breasted grosbeaks migrate through.

Yellow star grass, the white petals of comandra, clusters of pale blue and yellow bluets, bright green ferns and cream indigo plants color the Indian Boundary Prairies.

A close-up of a box turtle looking up.
Box Turtle Turtles usually begin to lay their eggs in the spring. © Dale Higgs

Wildlife abounds along the Mackinaw River with great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, soft-shelled and snapping turtles, river otters, raccoons, red foxes, coyotes and groundhogs walking the grounds.

Purple blooms of bird’s foot violet, bright yellow and orange blooms of hairy pucoon and the delicate but vibrant blue petals of blue-eyed grass decorate Kankakee Sands while birds such as the dickcissel, bobolink and green heron begin to arrive.

Grasshopper and Henslow’s sparrows, bobolinks and other grassland and savanna bird species can be seen at Nachusa Grasslands calling territory, building nests and hatching eggs.

While the skies, trees and prairies at Emiquon are filled with dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows and migrating warblers and other neo-tropical birds, the wetlands have their own chorus of songs from spring peepers, chorus frogs, American toads and the occasional “whoop-whoop” of the American bittern.