Laona Heights Sugar River Colored Sands Sugar River Two Rivers Ferguson Hartley Memorial Trask Bridge Four Lakes Pecatonica River Pecatonica Wetlands Crooked River Grove Creek Seward Bluffs Klehm Forest Preserve Severson Dells Fuller Memorial Cedar Cliff Indian Hill Hinchliff Memorial Kilbuck Bluffs Trailside Kishwaukee Gorge South Kishwaukee Gorge North Rockford Rotary Kishwaukee River Oak Ridge Blackhawk Springs Deer Run Espenscheid Memorial McKiski County Line Kieselburg Roland Olson Stone Bridge Clayton Andrews Ledges Hononegah J. Norman Jensen Millrace Isle Macktown Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve Headquarters


Winnebago County’s four rivers, prairies, wetlands, and woodlands are magnets for migrating and nesting birds. Over 320 species of birds have been documented here. See the printable Birding Checklist for Winnebago County for a comprehensive listing of all the species that have been documented here and how common they are.

One of the great things about birding is you don’t need piles of expensive equipment to get started. In fact, you’ve got some very important and useful equipment: your eyes and ears. Spring and fall migrations are best times to bird, but nearly any time of year can be rewarding. Some of the most spectacular sightings occur when the trees are bare in winter.
The 10,300 acres of woodlands, prairies, rivers, and marshes protected and managed by the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District provide convenient, safe and fascinating opportunities for year-round birding adventures.

Birds of Prey

The term “birds of prey” applies to several families whose members have exceptional vision for locating prey while in flight and strong talons and hooked upper beaks for handling prey once they find it.

Marsh Birds

In general, birds that rely on marsh/wetland habitat have declined drastically in Illinois in the last thirty years due to habitat destruction. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) study of 12 wetland bird species reveals that ten have shown declines since the study began in 1980.

Song Birds

Excellent data on breeding and migrating song birds has been collected since 1976 at Sand Bluff Bird Observatory in Colored Sands Forest Preserve. Winnebago County’s location makes it highly valuable to migrating and breeding songbirds.


Illinois lies in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway with waterfowl breeding grounds to the north and the wintering grounds to the south. In previous centuries, the high quality and abundance of its wetlands, Illinois has historically welcomed legions of nesting and migratory waterfowl and other waterbirds.


Five species of woodpeckers live in Winnebago County year-round: the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) and Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a common migrant. The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is another migrant occasionally seen in select forest preserves.