Fall Migrations

The air grows colder, the nights get longer, and the leaves change colors – all signals to both people and nature that fall has arrived and that it’s time to prepare for winter. For some wildlife species, this means heading south to warmer habitats (and more plentiful food sources) in the tropics. For others, it means moving towards safe places to hibernate.

Regardless of where they’re headed, insects and animals of all kinds are migrating this fall. Grab your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled the next time you head out into nature!


We don’t know much about mysterious dragonfly migrations, which occur in the late summer and early fall, but we do know many of these insects pass through Illinois on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Migrating Waterfowl

Coots and waterfowl such as mallards, gadwell, pintail, and widgeon begin arriving in large numbers in late October.

Neo-tropical Migrants

Around the same time, neo-tropical migrants such as warblers move through the prairies at Nachusa Grasslands and the upland forests at Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms.

Kettles of Raptors

Also during October, kettles of migrating raptors such as red-tailed, rough-legged, and occasional red-shouldered hawks can be seen gliding wind currents up and over the river bluffs at Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms.

Snakes on the move!

Cool days and cooler nights bring on the annual movement of snakes from bottomland wetlands to upland bluff hibernaria; snakes can be seen crossing County Highway 12 at Spunky Bottoms.

Bald Eagles

In November, American bald eagles start arriving in large numbers along the Illinois River Valley at Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms.

Snow Birds

Snow buntings begin to arrive around the same time at the Grassy Slough Preserve in the Cache River wetlands.

Winter Raptors

Just before the holidays arrive, winter raptors such as short-eared owls and northern harriers settle in at Midewin Tallgrass Prairie.


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