Late Winter Offers Great Bird Watching Opportunties


By Nick Hausen

JACKSON COUNTY -- If you have stayed in all winter long, you could be missing out on a great cold weather hobby in southern Illinois - bird watching.

Finches, woodpeckers, eagles, cardinals and many more are all easily visible during the winter in southern Illinois.

"Mother Nature lays the snow down, she lays the ice down, the wind picks up," said avid bird watcher Jim Martin. "It's weather that causes the animals to do their thing."

From looking for bald eagles along the Big Muddy River, to sitting at his kitchen table looking at the bird feeders out his window, Martin enjoys them all.

"Those finches currently are in their winter drab," Martin enthusiastically explained. "The other day, I saw one or two that started to have just a few feathers right in here saying, 'Hey springtime is not too far off."

Bird watching offers a time capsule as the birds change feathers through the season and different species migrate to the area.

"Just this morning, I saw a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker on my way in," said Jennifer Randolph-Bollinger, site interpreter at Giant City State Park.

While the weather may be frightful, it offers some of the best viewing opportunities.

"You can really see in the winter time with all the leaves down," explained Randolph-Bollinger. "It's a great opportunity to do some bird watching here at the park. It's also a great time to get outside and do some hiking. You can really see the woods right now."

So if you're getting a little bit of cabin fever, like Martin, maybe the bright colors of a yellow finch or the acrobatics of a nuthatch will bright your day.

Giant City State Park is offering a bird watching program called "Winter is for the Birds." It's Saturday at the visitors center from 9a.m. to noon.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, where you count species and the number of birds and report them, runs from Feb. 14 through Feb. 17. More information the Great Backyard Bird Count can be found on their website

Marion Regional
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