Illinois proves to be a popular route for American White Pelicans – NBC Chicago


Some sort of bird that not so long ago was so rare in Illinois that people have traveled for hours just to spot one that has recently made its way through the Chicago area.

30-pound snow-white birds called American White Pelicans currently make their semi-annual migration through Illinois. It’s a journey that means hundreds of them stop to rest near the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Thousands more stop just about 150 miles beyond Channahon at the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in Lewistown.

There are a number of reasons why this can happen. For starters, decades of wetland restoration across the country have helped increase bird numbers from around 40,000 in the 1960s to 180,000 today.

As to why Illinois has seen so many more, the American Birding Association webmaster Greg Neise tells the Chicago Tribune that perhaps the birds that traditionally breed in Canada and the Great Plains and migrate to the Gulf Coast each winter have started to breed in northern Wisconsin.

He said another possibility could be that all of those Asian carps that have taken over Illinois waterways in recent years are, the pelicans have found, safe to eat.

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