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Best Places For Bird Watching Near Chicago

Are you a birder? Whether you look for birds as a casual interest or you're a serious birder hoping to find a rare species, then finding a new place to do some birding can be a fun way to spend the day. You can do some serious birdwatching without even leaving Chicago, with public gardens providing the perfect opportunity for those who live and work in the city to engage in a favorite activity. If you feel like a short road trip, then you don't need to travel far to look for birds, either, as we've compiled a list of places for birdwatching that are all within about 50 miles of Chicago's downtown. Grab your binoculars and get ready to do some serious birding by visiting these five destinations.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440

For some birdwatchers, an afternoon spent birding at Chicago Botanic Garden in the North Shore is heaven indeed. The garden has compiled a list of birds that have been spotted, including an assortment of gulls, herons and owls, as well as the Northern parula, kinglets and willets. The garden also offers tips on how you can best feed birds in your own backyard. After some birdwatching in the morning, consider exploring the trails and gardens of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Chicago Park District

When it comes to birding, the Chicago Park District offers 10 locations throughout the city where you can look for birds. Parks on the list include 63rd Street Beach in Jackson Park, South Shore Bird Sanctuary in South Shore Cultural Center, and Montrose Point and Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, both in Lincoln Park. A full list of parks with bird sanctuaries, bird areas and other good spots to look for birds is available on the Chicago Park District's website. If you want a destination that's a bit closer to home, you can always visit your neighborhood park.

Forest Preserves Of Cook County
536 N. Harlem Ave.
River Forest, IL 60305
(800) 870-3666

Get away from city life and spot a new-to-you bird or two without traveling far by spending the day in the Forest Preserves Cook County (FPCC). You can likely find quite a few birds in the area, with red-tailed hawks, nighthawks and pectoral sandpipers spotted. The organization also has several nature centers, including Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland and River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook, where visitors can learn more about the different birds who call the forest preserves home. A full list of nature centers is available on FPCC's website.

Related: Best Family Hikes Near Chicago

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Lurie Garden
Millennium Park
201  E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 228-1004

If you live or work in Chicago's Loop, then you might think birdwatching is something you can do only in the suburbs or in a forest preserve. That's actually not true. Lurie Garden, tucked away in Millennium Park, is a peaceful bit of nature in the midst of skyscrapers and the hustle-and-bustle of Chicago. It's also the home to quite a few different types of birds, with the garden's 2015 fact sheet noting "more than 60 bird species have been seen in the garden and park." Lurie Garden also keeps long, late hours, and is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with self-guided tours available.

Rollins Savanna
Lake County Forest Preserves
20160 W. Washington St.
Grayslake, IL 60030
(847) 367-6640

You can certainly do some serious birdwatching at any of the forest preserves in Lake County, but consider spending the day at Rollins Savanna. The preserve, located about 50 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, has been called a "Birder's Field of Dreams," as noted on Lake County Forest Preserves' website. The preserve boasts an observation area so you can look for birds and perhaps meet other birders in the process (birds of a feather do flock together, after all). You can also take a hike or bike into other parts of the forest preserve by using the trail.

Related: Best Family-Friendly Bike Trails In Chicago

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at

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