Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

James D. Hengeveld

Keith A. McMullen

Geoffrey A. Williamson

Recommended citation:

Hengeveld, D., K.A. McMullen, and G.A. Williamson. 2021. Spring 2017: Illinois & Indiana. <> North American Birds.

It was a warm and wet spring, with April particularly warm and May abnormally wet. Perhaps as the result of the warm conditions, waterbirds (particularly waterfowl and gulls) moved north early and many landbirds arrived early and in good numbers. A nice assortment of rarities included Mottled Duck, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Pacific Loon, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Swallow-tailed Kite, Mountain Bluebird, Pine Grosbeak, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Swainson’s Warbler, and Western Tanager.

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface): Annie Aguirre, David Ayer, Joe Bailey (JBy), Nicholas A. Barber, Matthew Beatty, Frank K. Bennett, Alex Bird, Howard Blum, Neal Bogan, H. David Bohlen, Gary & Lisa Bowman, Jackie Lentz Bowman, Felisha Branch, Will Britton, Kenneth J. Brock (Indiana), Jim Brown, Michael R. Brown, Brad Bumgardner, Lisa Burr, James H. Campbell, Joan Campbell, John K. Cassady, Gary Chupp, David Crouch, Brian Cunningham, Bob Decker, Henry Detwiler, Colin Dobson, Evan Dvorchak, Joshua I. Engel, Carolyn S. Fields, Chuck Fields, Michal Furmanek, Andy Gilbert (AGt), Allisyn-Marie Gillet, Don Gorney, Eva Groth, Brendan J. Grube, Chris Gutmann, Stephen B. Hager, James E. Hampson, Logan & Heath Harlan, C. Leroy Harrison, Conrad Harstine, Don Hartzler, Ted Hartzler, Tyler Hedlund (THd), Jim & Susan Hengeveld, Amy Hodson, Edward M. Hopkins, Bob Huguenard, Matthew Igleski, Matt S. Kalwasinski, Dan M. Kassebaum, Amy Kearns, Martin Kehoe, John C. Kendall, Nick Kiehl, Demetri Lafkas, Corey Lange, Gary Langell, Steven L. Lima, John & Karen Lindsey, Karen M. Lund, Chuck Lunsford (CLd), Mandy Mahurin, Caroline A. Marsh, Annette McClellan, William McClellan, Jeffrey J. McCoy, Kelly J. McKay, Keith A. McMullen, Bob Meier, John Meredig, Eric Michael, Marion Miller (MMr), Steve Minard (SMd), Jim Mordacq (JMq), Vince Moxon, Steve Mulhall, Don D. Mullison, Christopher G. Newman, David O’Brien, Linda S. Padera, Joseph Phipps, Sam Plew, Ed Powers, Christine Ransdell, Eden Ransdell, Samantha Ransdell, Taylor Ransdell, Pat Reyburn, Phil J. Reyburn, Rob Ripma, Maren S. Robinson, Kimberly Rohling, Aidan Rominger, Jeremy Ross, David Rupp, John Schaust, Peter E. Scott, Spike Selig, Adam W. Sell, Robert E. Shelby, Andrew P. Sigler

Contributors (cont.)

Lee W. Sterrenburg, Andrew O. Stewart, Tyler Stewart, Travis Stoelting (TSg), Alan F. Stokie, Douglas F. Stotz, Zachary Sutton, Paul W. Sweet, Craig A. Taylor, Jeff Timmons (JTi), John Tomlinson, Michael A. Topp, Stuart Tower, Tanner Troyer, Jim Tudor (JTr), Debby Vincent, Eric W. Walters, James Wheat, Geoffrey A. Williamson (Illinois), Adam & Sarah Wilson, Joseph Young, Jody Zamirowski, Stan Zatarski, Amanda Zeigler. Many others submitted observations but could not be personally acknowledged; all have our thanks for their contributions. Much of the information in this report was accessed via eBird.

Abbreviations: ArcelorMittal (ArcelorMittal steel plant, East Chicago, Lake, IN); Carlyle (Carlyle L., Clinton, Bond, & Fayette, IL); DSP Tower (Observation Tower at Dunes S.P., Porter, IN); Emiquon (Emiquon NWR and The Nature Conservancy Emiquon Preserve, Fulton, IL); F.P. (Forest Preserve); F.W.A. (Fish and Wildlife Area); Goose Pond (Goose Pond F.W.A., Greene, IN).


Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are clearly now part of the region’s spring avifauna, with the species present for the 10th consecutive year. A single Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was at Goose Pond 29 Apr (AH, BC, JS, RR); three were in Edwardsville, Madison, IL 9 May (ED, ph. JT); a stunning flock of 20 was at a private residence in Boone 15 May (LB), nearly doubling Indiana’s previous maximum (11); and six were at a golf course pond in Terre Haute, IN 20–23 May (fide PES, AK). Having departed early, geese were reported in low numbers, though a Greater White-fronted Goose at L. Monroe, Monroe 23 May (GL) provided Indiana’s latest record, 100 Ross’s Geese at Carlyle 25–26 Mar (DMK) represented one of Illinois’s largest tallies, and a Cackling Goose in St. Joseph 18 Apr (BH) was Indiana’s fifth latest. The 111 Mute Swans at Spring L., Tazewell, (KML) represented Illinois’s largest-ever spring congregation. Indiana’s first accepted record of Mottled Duck was furnished by a well-described and well-documented bird at Cane Ridge W.M.A., Gibson 30 May (ph. †AK et al.). Single Cinnamon Teal at Arcola Marsh, Douglas, IL 25–30 Mar (ph. MMr, m.ob.); at Meredosia N.W.R., Morgan, IL 11 Apr (CD); and at Goose Pond 17 Apr (ph. MRB, LWS, JR) were nice finds. A Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal hybrid was also noted at Herrick L. F.P., DuPage, IL 29 Mar (JC). There were two inland Black Scoters in Indiana: a female at Hardy L., Scott 4 Mar (JW) and a late female on L. Lemon, Brown 15 May (J&SH).

Greater Prairie-Chickens continue in small numbers in Illinois. The largest count was 18 at Bartel Land & Water Reserve, Marion 21 Mar (RES).

The region’s six Red-necked Grebes included only one from Indiana, while that state hosted five of the region’s nine Eared Grebes. White-winged Doves were noted in Quincy, Adams, IL 28 Mar (†PJR, ph. PR, m.o.b) and in Le Roy, McLean, IL 17 Apr (DO, ph. JP). A Black-billed Cuckoo in Dearborn 26 Apr (BD) tied for Indiana’s fourth-earliest spring arrival. An astounding 355 Common Nighthawks at Ft. Sheridan F.P., Lake 16 May (MF) more than doubled the previous Illinois spring high count. Another early arrival was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in New Columbia, Massac, IL 5 Apr (FKB). The region’s sole Yellow Rail report was of a single bird at Mississinewa Res., Miami, IN 21 Apr (JCK). Setting a new Illinois spring high count for Sandhill Cranes were the 15,000 observed passing Glen Ellyn, DuPage 9 May (JZ).

It was an excellent spring for Black-necked Stilts with a clear movement to more northerly sites, exemplified by the 17 at Eagle Marsh, Ft. Wayne, IN 16 Apr (EP) and reports from seven northern Illinois counties. The 76 Black-necked Stilts at Emiquon 14 Apr (CD, CL) provided Illinois’s second-largest spring tally, and the individual in Jackson 20 Mar (HD) matched Illinois’s record-early arrival date set 20 years earlier. Beating Illinois’s prior record-early date by two days were two American Avocets in Carbondale, Jackson 11 Apr (KAM, DDM, JTr). Single Piping Plovers were reported at Illinois Beach S.P., Lake, IL 7 Apr (AM, WM, AOS); at Waukegan, Lake, IL 8 Apr (AFS, AWS) and again 28 Apr (AM, WM, SM, AOS); and at Goose Pond 17 Apr (BD, ph. MRB, AK, GL et al.). The 400 Killdeer at Carlyle 25 Mar (DMK) matched the previous Illinois spring high count. An incredible movement of Whimbrels through the western portion of the region, with 45 in Illinois and only one in Indiana, was led by an amazing 29 in Peoria, IL 18 May (DH, TH, m.ob.) that represented Illinois’s all-time high count. Illinois’s third-earliest Ruddy Turnstone was at the El Paso S.T.P., Woodford 26 Apr (TH, m.ob.), and 25 in Hancock 20 May (A&SW) furnished Indiana’s third-largest count away from L. Michigan. A mostly basic-plumaged Red Knot in western Gibson 3 May (AK et al.) provided the first-ever spring record for Indiana’s southern tier and the first statewide spring report since 1999. The eight Red Knots in Morgan 20 May (CL, CAT) represented the second-largest inland tally for Illinois and that state’s largest group in 17 years. Three Reeves were seen in Indiana: at Goose Pond 14–25 Apr (ph. JJM, TS et al.); at Cane Ridge W.M.A., Gibson 18 Apr (ph. AK); and in Warrick 30 Apr (CGN, JHC, G&LB). At Miller Beach, Lake, the two Sanderlings 14 Apr (MAT) furnished Indiana’s second-earliest spring record. A record spring total of White-rumped Sandpipers in Indiana included record-tying counts of 50 at Oatsville Bottoms, Gibson 29 May (AK), and in western Gibson 30 May (AK). Three Pectoral Sandpipers at the Santa Fe bottoms, Clinton 3 Mar (DMK) tied for earliest ever in Illinois, and 5,290 tallied in southern LaPorte 14 Apr (JCK) constituted Indiana’s third-largest count. In a phenomenal flight of Long-billed Dowitchers, four of Indiana’s five highest counts were logged, topped by the tally of 199 at Goose Pond 2 May (AK) that established a new state maximum. There was also an unprecedented flight of Willets in Indiana that included a cold-front-induced grounding of 91 at four different sites 27 Apr and a maximum count of 80 at DSP Tower 2 May (BJG). Two Willets at L. Springfield, Sangamon, IL 10 Apr (JMq) were the fourth-earliest on record for Illinois. For the first time in seven years, Red-necked Phalarope went unreported in Indiana for the spring.

A Black-headed Gull at L. Springfield, Sangamon, IL 23 Mar (HDB, ph. CD) was a great find. This was only the third Illinois record since the 1980s. The eight Laughing Gulls reported in Indiana tied the all-time high spring count. An alternate adult at Geist Res., Marion, 6 May (NK) was followed by three adults on the north side of Geist Res., Hamilton, 7 May (NK, AR, ph. DG). On 23 May, 35,000 Ring-billed Gulls and 200 Herring Gulls were estimated via the INDR survey. A fine spring count of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Indiana (18) was highlighted by three adults near Elkhart, Elkhart 29 Mar (EM). It was a very poor spring for Arctic-nesting gulls, perhaps reflecting an early departure of wintering birds; the Glaucous Gull count total in Indiana was the lowest since 1999. The Least Tern observed at El Paso S.T.P., Woodford 28 Apr–3 May (TH, JP, m.ob.) was Illinois’s earliest ever, beating the prior record by two days. Least Tern numbers in Indiana were the highest in five years. An IDNR survey yielded an estimated 180 adult Caspian Terns at ArcelorMittal 23 May. Illinois’s peak count was of 180 in Waukegan, Lake 13 May (PWS).

The 13 Red-throated Loons at Winthrop Harbor, Lake 4 Apr (AOS) matched Illinois’s prior spring high count. Single adult Red-throated Loons in the rarely observed alternate plumage were seen from DSP Tower 13 Apr (JKC) and 9 May (BJG). A Pacific Loon in alternate plumage was on L. Lemon, Monroe, IN 6 May (ph. AK, GL et al.).

The expansion of Neotropic Cormorants into the region continued with six seen this season. One in Pontiac, Livingston 28 Mar (ph. DL) was Illinois’s earliest ever. Others were noted at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis 8 Apr (AR, DG, et al.); at L. Lemon, Monroe, IN 15 Apr (ph. J&SH, m.ob.); at L. Springfield 24 Apr (ph. HDB); at Crab Orchard N.W.R., Williamson, IL 28 Apr (†KAM), and at L. Lemon 14 May (ph. J&SH, m.ob.)—a second individual. An Anhinga was found in Jackson, IL 23 May (†JTr). As with Neotropic Cormorants, this species appears to be expanding its range. American White Pelican numbers continue to increase in the region. A congregation of 14,000 at Carlyle 13 Apr (DMK) represented a 75% increase from the prior Illinois spring high count, and an estimated 1,000 were at Goose Pond in early Mar (CLd) when numbers peaked in Indiana.

The Least Bittern in Washington, Tazewell 23 Mar (ph. DH, TH) was 15 days earlier than Illinois’s earliest prior record, and one at the Cline Ave. Marsh, Lake 5 May (ph. MSK, m.ob.) was the second-earliest ever for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. An Illinois-record-high spring count of 402 Great Egrets occurred at L. Renwick, Will, IL 18 Apr (CG), where there is a breeding colony, and an IDNR survey tallied 266 Great Egrets at ArcelorMittal 23 May, part of a record spring total in Indiana for the species. There were 240 Black-crowned Night-Herons at the breeding colony in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Cook, IL 20 Apr (MI) while an IDNR survey estimated 178 Black-crowned Night-Herons at ArcelorMittal 23 May.

Ibises had a strong presence in the region. Single Glossy Ibises were noted at Emiquon 17–19 May (AGt, m.ob.); at Kingsbury F.W.A., LaPorte, IN 20–23 May (JJM, JKC, EMH, m.ob.); and again at Emiquon 27–28 May (AGt, EWW). Three unidentified Plegadis ibises flying over Goose Pond 6 Apr (TSg) were relocated and identified as White-faced on 10 Apr (AK, GL). At least 14 White-faced Ibises in Illinois included nine at Emiquon 28 May (EWW) and one at the Graysville Bottoms, Sullivan, IN 30–31 May (MRB, m.ob.).

The 132 Turkey Vultures in Crystal L., McHenry 24 Mar (KML) provided Illinois’s largest ever spring tally. Ospreys continue to prosper in the region; 14 noted at Carlyle 13 Apr (DMK) represented an Illinois spring high count. An Osprey at Potato Creek S.P. 6 Mar (BH) provided the second-earliest record for Indiana’s northern tier. A Swallow-tailed Kite near Metropolis, Massac, IL 7 Apr (ph. KAM) was a nice find. The Golden Eagle in Olney, Richland, IL 2 May (CLH) was late to depart. A good spring for Broad-winged Hawks was accentuated by a flight of 121 at DSP Tower 15 May (BJG). Also at DSP Tower, a light-morph adult Swainson’s Hawk and a dark-morph juvenile Red-tailed Hawk flew past 26 Apr (BJG, MB, JJM, BB, ph. JCK).

One of the Long-eared Owls wintering at Hammond Lakefront Park, Lake, IN, lingered through 11 Mar (MAT). Fourteen Merlins passed Ft. Sheridan F.P., Lake IL 15 Apr (MF), providing Illinois’s second-ever double-digit spring tally. An impressive 28 Peregrine Falcon chicks from nine Indiana nests were banded by John S. Castrale (fide AG). At Goose Pond, a Prairie Falcon was discovered 2 Mar (DR).

The 50 Monk Parakeets noted in southeast Chicago 9 Apr (JIE, AZ) provided the largest spring group total in nine years.

The record of a singing Acadian Flycatcher in Yellowwood S.F., Brown 25 Apr (FB) tied for Indiana’s third-earliest arrival date. Strong spring flights of Alder and Willow Flycatchers in Indiana were exemplified by eight Alders at Hammond Lakefront Park, Lake 27 May (BH) and 26 Willows at Universal Mines, Vermillion 23 May (SLL). Indiana’s earliest-ever Western Kingbird arrived in Pike 26 Apr (ph. JR), and a pair that has been breeding at the Evansville Airport returned 18 May (DA, BM). In Illinois, Western Kingbirds were reported from five different locations including known breeding sites in Madison, St. Clair, and Mason counties. A spectacular flight of Eastern Kingbirds was documented at DSP Tower 16 May, when 329 were tallied (BJG), Indiana’s fourth-largest count. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers at Ft. Sheridan, Lake, IL 15 Apr (MF) and in Urbana, Champaign, IL 2–3 May (THd, ZS) were the only reports within the region.

At Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Vanderburgh, a singing White-eyed Vireo 24 Mar (JM), possibly the individual that overwintered here, provided Indiana’s second-earliest spring record. A singing Bell’s Vireo in Johnson 19 Apr (AB et al.) also tied for Indiana’s second earliest. Other early vireos included a Blue-headed at Sommerville Mines, Gibson, IN 8 Apr (NB), a Warbling at Ft. Massac S.P., Massac, IL 9 Apr (KAM), and a Red-eyed at Hayswood Nature Reserve, Harrison, IN 8 Apr (ST). With relatively few prior winter records in Indiana, Fish Crows were reported in Indianapolis 3 Mar (SS) and in Fulton 4 Mar (SMd). Fish Crows are increasing in Illinois’s central tier, as indicated by reports from three counties there.

A new early arrival date for Northern Rough-winged Swallow was set for Indiana when one was photographed in southern LaPorte 9 Mar (EM). Five Cliff Swallows at a LaGrange farm 10 Apr (SP) were early for Indiana’s northern tier, but even earlier was one in Chicago’s Burnham Park 7 Mar (JIE, DFS, et al.), the earliest for Illinois by nine days. Nearly doubling the prior Illinois spring high count for Cliff Swallows was the aggregation of 4,000 noted at Carlyle 14 May (DMK).

Setting a new Illinois spring high count for Golden-crowned Kinglets were 162 at Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, Lee 28 Mar (KJM, SBH). A Golden-crowned Kinglet at Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park 29 May (HB) and two at the Morton Arboretum, DuPage, IL 27 May (CF, VM) were very late, the former providing a record departure date for Illinois. Also late was a Golden-crowned Kinglet at Hammond Lakefront Park, Lake, IN 27 May (ph. BH, MAT, EG).

A Mountain Bluebird at Fermilab, DuPage, IL 7–12 Apr (ph. CSF, ph. LSP, ph. SZ) was a rare find. The Townsend’s Solitaire that wintered at the Perkinsville Cemetery, Madison, lingered through 5 Apr (JTi), providing Indiana’s third-latest spring record.

An exceptional find was Illinois’s first Pine Grosbeak in 20 years, present in Rockton, Winnebago 13 Apr (MK, m.ob.). It was visiting a backyard feeder and was photographed by many there, though it was a one-day wonder. Except for Purple Finches, nonresident winter finches were virtually nonexistent in the region. The 98 Purple Finches tallied 14 Apr at DSP Tower (BJG) constituted the fourth-largest count for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront, and the 42 noted at Amboy Marsh, Lee, IL 14 Apr (JEH) were notable.

On 9 May, six Smith’s Longspurs found in an Elkhart, IN field (GC) represented only a second county record, and at Miller Beach, Lake, one that landed on the sand 20 May (MAT) furnished Indiana’s latest spring record.

An incredible 80 Fox Sparrows were found at Hammond Lakefront Park, Lake 24 Mar (MAT, CAM), topping the previous high in Indiana by 14 birds. A Golden-crowned Sparrow in the Letcher Basin, Woodford, IL 21 Mar–4 Apr (APS, CAT, m.ob.) was Illinois’s third in the last nine years and only its sixth accepted record. Indiana’s first Golden-crowned Sparrow was an adult found at an Indianapolis feeder on 16 Apr (AA, TT, m.ob.). It lingered until the 18th and was seen by scores of birders. A single Harris’s Sparrow report in Indiana was of one in the Vigo County Bottoms 23 Apr (SLL), while a dozen individuals were found in Illinois. Two Nelson’s Sparrows in Mercer 3 May (†KJM) were four days ahead of Illinois’s prior record arrival date, and one at Willow Slough F.W.A., Newton, IN 20 May (JJM) was unusual in that it was singing.

A singing Yellow-breasted Chat at Ditney Hill, Warrick on 15 Apr (JHC) tied Indiana’s fourth-earliest arrival date. For the fifth consecutive year, a male Yellow-headed Blackbird appeared at the Grant St. Wetland, Lake, IN, this one returning on 22 Apr (MAT). Another adult male was reported in Orange, IN 10 May (AK) and 13 May (J&KL). Two exceptional counts of Rusty Blackbirds, both at DSP Tower, consisted of 1,479 and 1,378 on 3 and 9 Apr, respectively (BJG). It was also a very good spring for Brewer’s Blackbirds in Indiana, exemplified by the 54 seen in southern LaPorte 18 Apr (MB).

Warblers, as a group, were reported in excellent numbers in Indiana and many were reported quite early in the season, while Illinois experienced a rather typical season for this family. An Ovenbird in Goshen, Elkhart 4 Apr (AA) tied Indiana’s earliest arrival date and a Worm-eating Warbler at Metocinah Creek, Wabash 2 Apr (CH, DV) was Indiana’s earliest by five days. Other early arrivals from Indiana included a Northern Waterthrush at Muscatatuck N.W.R., Jackson 1 Apr (DC) and a Blue-winged Warbler at Angel Mounds Historic Site, Vanderburgh 12 Apr (JM). The Blue-winged Warbler at Ft. Massac S.P., Massac 8 Apr (KAM) tied for earliest ever in Illinois. Record numbers of Prothonotary Warblers were reported in Indiana, and the fifth Indiana record of Swainson’s Warbler was provided by a bird at Harmonie S.P., Posey 22 May (JM). The 103 Tennessee Warblers tallied in Greene 12 May (JB) represented Indiana’s third-largest count. More early arrivals in Indiana included a Kentucky Warbler in Warrick 16 Apr (JM) and an American Redstart at Stillwater Marsh, Monroe 15 Apr (ph. JBy). A hybrid Cerulean Warbler x Northern Parula was an interesting find at Fabyan F.P., Kane, IL 7–24 May (ph. JLB, v.r. NAB, m.ob.). A Bay-breasted Warbler at Ouabache Trails Park, Knox, IN 26 Apr (MM) and a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Eagle Slough, Vanderburgh, IN 16 Apr (BM) were early. At opposite ends of the state, single Blackpoll Warblers at Indian Creek Trail, Harrison (CR, ER, SR, & TR) and at a feeder in LaPorte (EG) on 14 Apr tied the early arrival date for Indiana. A Palm Warbler at Cache R. S.N.A., Pulaski, 1 Mar (KR) was the earliest record for Illinois by 22 days, suggesting it may have wintered. At DSP Tower, an amazing 23 Pine Warblers were recorded 15 Apr (BJG), constituting Indiana’s third-highest one-day total. Four days later, 47 Pine Warblers were counted at the site (BJG), establishing a new high state count. At the same site, 2,213 Yellow-rumped Warblers were tallied 19 Apr (BJG), Indiana’s third-largest one-day total. Single Audubon’s Warblers were seen in Indiana at DSP Tower 25 Apr (BJG); in Carmel, Hamilton 3 May (BC); and in Dunes S.P., Porter 25 May (WB).

A Summer Tanager in Chicago 4–14 Apr (ph. MSR, m.ob.) was the earliest record for Illinois by three days. A Western Tanager in Serena, LaSalle 21 May (ph. JY) was Illinois’s eighth for the 21st century. An impressive 16 Blue Grosbeaks were noted in Monroe, IL 8 May (KAM), and one found in central Gibson, IN on 15 Apr (L&HH) was early. A male Painted Bunting returned to the East St. Louis, St. Clair, IL area 20 May (DMK) where its small breeding location has continued since 2000 (fide KAM).


The peak count of European Goldfinches was 10 in Waukegan, Lake, IL 9 Apr (AM, WM), where this species is seen regularly. Reports also came from eight other northeast Illinois locations.

Report processed by Joshua Malbin, 10 Feb 2021.

Photos–Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2017

Hover or click on each image to read the caption.