Jason’s Journal: Flocking to Emiquon

Emiquon provides food and habitat for migratory birds. Some even stay to raise their young.

Birds Flock to Emiquon

Emiquon is a hot spot for spring migratory birds.


April 2011—At times, there are so many, they look like a giant cloud swiftly moving across the sky, temporarily blocking the sunlight. As they get closer, you hear their calls ring out and realize it’s no cloud at all. It’s a flock of snow geese, more than 100,000 strong, migrating to the Emiquon Preserve and nearby Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, the birds’ spring staging area.

Spring migration is truly a sight to see at Emiquon, and as the preserve gains plant and animal diversity each year, it becomes more and more spectacular. This year, according to the Illinois Natural History Survey, Emiquon saw a total of 15 species of ducks, two species of swans, including 72 trumpeter swans, and nearly 1,500 Canada and greater white-fronted geese.

Migratory birds make arduous journeys, traveling anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000 miles in their flight to warmer areas. Birds migrate in the fall and spring, and their primary motivation for this seasonal flight is finding food and breeding grounds. As the season changes from fall to winter, food becomes less available in certain areas, so birds need to move on to a warmer climate to sustain themselves. Spring’s arrival brings longer days and warmer temperatures, so birds are mainly focused on breeding and feeding their young this time of year.

Staging areas such as Emiquon are critical to migratory birds’ survival. Migratory birds rely on wide-open staging areas during their flight as places of refuge, food and habitat.

Speaking of spectacular happenings at Emiquon, I want to announce a “save the date” for our Observatory Grand Opening event on June 4. We’re celebrating the opening of our new visitor facilities, which include boardwalks, canoe and boat launches, hiking trails, observation decks equipped with spotting scopes and pavilions, featuring interpretive signage for teachers, students, scientists, land managers and the public. The event ribbon cutting ceremony is from 11 a.m. to noon, and then from noon to 4 p.m., visitors can enjoy the new facilities and a variety of activities, including canoeing, hay rack rides and booth displays provided by our partners. For more information, visit our events page.