CHICAGO — McKinley Park is not exactly a "birding hotspot" in Chicago, but the students at Ruiz Elementary observed dozens of species recently during a "Birds in My Neighborhood" field trip.
The Birds In My Neighborhood program pairs volunteers with Chicago second- through fifth-graders, with the goal of teaching the students about birds and other natural happenings in the neighborhoods near their schools. The program is a partnership between Openlands and Audubon Great Lakes.
At this time of year, "Birds in my Neighborhood is in full swing, just like spring migration," said John Cawood, Openlands' Education Program Coordinator. "It’s amazing to see what groups like Ruiz are seeing in our urban parks during their field trips. McKinley Park isn’t exactly known for being a birding hotspot."
The program, now in its fifth year, expanded to 28 Chicago schools in 2017, and Cawood said it served more than 1,500 CPS students. Ruiz was one of several schools to make recent Birds in My Neighborhood field trips, included Roseland's Lavizzo Elementary visiting Whistler Woods.
Openlands, which was founded in 1963 to protect and provide public access to the city's natural areas, also has installed school gardens at 61 Chicago schools since 2006.
Hundreds of bird species are currently passing through Chicago — a common feeding and resting stop — as they migrate from as far south as South America. The city provides trees, beaches and other habitats that aren't available on farmland. That even includes Chicago golf courses, which are filled with ponds, sand and trees.
Birds seen at McKinley Park during the Ruiz Elementary visit:
White Pekin Duck
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Blue Heron
Ruby Crowned Kinglet