Birding Spots

Listed below are JWP Audubon recommended birding areas.  Click on the selected location for more information.

Sugar Grove Nature Center 

Sugar Grove Nature Center is located in beautiful, historic Funks Grove, the largest intact prairie grove in the State of Illinois.  Through a unique partnership with the Funks Grove Cemetery Association, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Sugar Grove Foundation, over 1,000 acres of high quality natural area, have been protected through the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission or conservation easements.  Portions of Funks Grove have been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior.  

Our facility is open year-round and admission is FREE!  Individuals of all ages enjoy the interpretive exhibits, sensory displays, live animals, and bird viewing room.  Access to over 5 miles of hiking trails take visitors through prairie, savannah, woodland, and riverine habitats.   A picnic shelter, astronomy observatory, working blacksmith forge, corn crib prairie lookout, variety of gardens, and many other features help to make Sugar Grove Nature Center a beautiful and unique place.  Our grounds and trails are open daily from dawn until dusk.

Located in Central Illinois:

Angela Funk, Director
Sugar Grove Nature Center
4532 N. 725 East Road
McLean, IL61754
Office:  309.874.2174 

Cell:  309.261.6894


Parklands Foundation

ParkLands Foundation protects and restores natural lands in the Mackinaw River valley of McLean and Woodford counties. Our goal is to create a network of conservation lands corridors along the Mackinaw River and its tributaries. Since its founding in 1967, the organization has protected and restored (through ownership, intermediary conservation buyer or conservation easement) more than 3,200 acres pf prairie, savanna, floodplain forest and river habitat in the Mackinaw River valley of McLean, Tazewell and Woodford counties, and in other watersheds within McLean County. This includes two Illinois Nature Preserves that are owned (Ridgetop NP, Merwin NP), one that we manage in conjunction with our owned buffer strip (Weston Cemetery NP) and one that we donated to the IDNR (ParkLands NP). This also includes one designated Illinois Land and Water Reserve that we own; we are in the process of dedicating three additional owned preserves within this program.


Ewing Park in Bloomington/Normal  

Ewing Park I - 1420 Towanda Ave., Bloomington, IL, Ewing Park II - 1001 Ethell Pky, Normal, IL and Ewing Park III - 901 Jersey Avenue, Bloomington, IL  

Ewing Park, a bird-watchers' paradise, is tucked in the midst of Bloomington's northeast side, west of Veterans Parkway.   The park is an oasis because migrating birds tend to concentrate there to rest in the woods. The park is also a great place for a bird walk because it is handy for most people.  John Wesley Powell Audubon offers birders Saturday and Sunday morning bird walks in spring and fall.  (see calendar and field trip for details).


White Oak Park and Lake 

1514 Cottage Ave

Bloomington, IL 61701 (309) 454-1155,


Allerton Park and Retreat Center

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

515 Old Timber Road
Monticello, Illinois 61856

The 1500-acre woodland, garden, meadow, and prairie landscape that surrounds the Allerton Mansion was once the private estate of Robert Henry Allerton.


Lake Bloomington

Lake Bloomington is a 635 acre lake with 18.5 miles of shoreline in Central Illinois. Our lake is a mixture of residences, camps, parks and nature preserves. Located just 15 miles north of Bloomington/Normal, it's a great place to relax and enjoy fishing and boating.  


Evergreen Lake/ Comlara State Park

Evergreen Lake's 10-horsepower limit maintains a relaxing and natural atmosphere. The lake provides the scenic backdrop for some of the best fishing and passive water sports in Illinois, and its 900 acre size makes it one of the most popular sailboarding lakes in Central Illinois. Canoes, paddleboats, rowboats, kayaks, and five horsepower outboard motors are available for an enjoyable afternoon alone or with family and friends. State record hybrid walleye, big muskie, crappie, and bass make this a favorite for both the casual and tournament fisherman. The lake features fully accessible docks, several fishing piers, and a bait shop.


Moraine View State Park/Dawson Lake

With fully developed facilities for picnicking, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, horseback riding and hunting, the 1,687-acre Moraine View State Recreation Area, with its 158-acre lake, is a beautiful, convenient and accessible locale for relaxation and recreation.


From I 74, Exit #149 at LeRoy. Follow signs into LeRoy. Turn left on US 150 to Casey General Store. Turn Right on LeRoy-Lexington blacktop (County Hwy. 21). North to sign (Moraine View State Park), next Right. Follow road into park, past main entrance to flagpole.


Weldon Springs State Park

 Lying just southeast of Clinton in DeWitt County, Weldon Springs State Park is a 550-acre park for all seasons. Weldon Springs' recreational agenda is among the most comprehensive in the state park system, offering recreational opportunities year-round. During the milder seasons, you are invited to fish, boat, picnic, camp, hike, and view wildlife. Or, you might want to pitch horseshoes at the park's tournament-quality horseshoe pits. When the snow flies, hardier outdoors persons not only continue many of the warmer weather pursuits, but add sledding and tobogganing on a one-eighth mile hill, ice fishing and cross-country skiing to the itinerary of their visit.



Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a popular site located in a rolling wooded area near Mahomet, Illinois. This beautiful preserve occupies almost 900 acres along the corridor of the Sangamon River. Highlighting Lake of the Woods are several well-known attractions: the Museum of the Grand Prairie (formerly Early American Museum), Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden and Lake of the Woods Golf Course. The preserve also offers fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, sledding, the HI-Tower Bell Carillon and observation area, building rentals and educational programs.


Starved Rock State Park / Matthieson State Park

Starved Rock State Park – VOTED THE #1 ATTRACTION IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS --Amazing waterfalls are active in the spring and after heavy rains. We have 13 miles of trails to explore, plus, the Illinois River offers fishing (ice fishing, too), boating, extraordinary views and great places to relax.

Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for a special outing.



The 2,700-acre project is one of the premier natural areas in the state and is open to the public 365 days a year. Today a mosaic of lakes, marshes, seeps, savannas, and prairies support native flora and fauna. The project was named an Audubon Important Bird Area in 2004.


Nachusa Grasslands

Nachusa Grasslands consists of 3000 acres of prairie remnants, restorations, and reconstructions located between Oregon, Dixon and Franklin Grove, IL. Remnant prairie knobs were protected from the plow by an unfarmable overlay of St. Peter Sandstone. Starting in 1986 with the purchase of 250 acres, The Nature Conservancy has gradually recreated a vision of 1800 Illinois' mosaic of prairie, savanna and wetlands. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have collected seed to replant former corn and bean fields.

(815) 456-2340 

8772 S Lowden Rd, Franklin Grove, IL


Emiquon Wetlands

Emiquon is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest. It is the premiere demonstration site for The Nature Conservancy’s work on the Illinois River and within the Upper Mississippi River system and ultimately will help guide large floodplain river restoration efforts around the world.


Clinton Lake

If you’re looking for the ideal place to drop your line and catch a record fish, look no farther than Clinton Lake State Recreation Area. Recreational opportunities abound at this 9,300-acre facility, just 3 miles east of Clinton in central Illinois. From picnicking, hiking and camping to swimming, water skiing and boating to hunting for upland game, people from all over the midwest flock to Clinton Lake to enjoy the great outdoors.

If just relaxing and watching the animal life is your interest, Clinton Lake has various small mammals and nearly 40 species of birds, including osprey which dive into the lake for fish. In the spring, it is the place to search for morels. In the fall, it is ablaze with a rainbow of color.


Illinois Audubon Sites


Recommended reading

Field Guides

The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley

Sibley's Birding Basics, David Allen Sibley 

Eastern Birds - Peterson Field Guides, Roger Tory Peterson

Field Guide to Weather, National Audubon Society

Guide to Nature in Winter, Donald Stokes


Hawks & Owls of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America, Chris Ealey

Hawks in Flight (2nd ed. 2012) by Peter Dunne, Clay Sutton & David Sibley

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors (2011) by Jerry Liguori & Peter Dunne

Hawks from Every Angle (2005) by Jerry Liguori & Peter Dunne


The Forest Unseen - A Year's Watch in Nature, David Haskell

Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson

The Trees in My Forest, Bernd Heinrich

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan

Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing, ed. Joel Greenberg