Illinois & Indiana: Summer 2020

Summer 2020: 1 Jun–31 July

James D. Hengeveld

Keith A. McMullen

Geoffrey A. Williamson

Recommended citation:

Hengeveld, J.D., K.A. McMullen, and G.A. Williamson. 2021. Summer 2020: Illinois & Indiana. <> North American Birds.

The weather was unremarkable, though significantly warmer (1.0° C) than average but, overall, average with respect to precipitation, with June slightly drier and July slightly wetter than average. Highlights included a Sooty Tern, 14 Neotropic Cormorants, multiple Roseate Spoonbills, two Swallow-tailed Kites, several pairs of nesting Merlins, lingering Red Crossbills, an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Painted Bunting.

Sub-regional Compilers: Kenneth J. Brock (Indiana), Paul Senner (Illinois).

Abbreviations: Emiquon (Emiquon NWR and The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, Fulton Co, IL); FP (Forest Preserve); FWA (Fish and Wildlife Area); Goose Pond (Goose Pond FWA, Greene Co, IN); Montrose (Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park).

Waterfowl through Cranes

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were again present in good numbers in IL, with reports coming from 15 of the state’s 102 counties, including two in the northern tier, and with a maximum of 36 at Grand Tower, Jackson Co, IL 2 Jun (Adam W. Sell). IN’s second successful nesting of Trumpeter Swans occurred at the Mud L. unit of Kingsbury FWA, LaPorte Co, as a pair of adults and five small young were photographed there 12 Jun (Bob Huguenard). The IN L. Michigan lakefront’s first successful nesting also occurred this summer: Matt Kalwasinski photographed an adult with a downy young in Gary, Lake Co 25 Jul. Two family groups of Trumpeter Swans were noted in IL: two adults and five young in Mundelein, Lake Co 8 Jun with four young still present 24 Jul (Todd Katz) and two adults and three young at Rollins Savanna FP, Lake Co all season (m. ob.). The first nesting of this species in IL during modern times was in 2006. Good numbers of Blue-winged Teal were reported in northern IN with a high count of 24 at the LaGrange Co 200N wetland 30 Jun (Sam Plew).

A Western Grebe at Emiquon 5–13 Jun (Colin Dobson, m. ob.) was an unusual find. A White-winged Dove was observed in Macomb, McDonough Co, IL 1 Jul (ph. Kate Van Sloten); another in Stonington, Christian Co, IL 27 Jul (Craig A. Taylor) was likely an individual continuing from the spring period. Record numbers of Yellow-billed Cuckoos (>1100) were reported in IN with peak counts of 12 in Harmonie SP, Posey Co 6 Jun (Evan Speck) and 13 in Kosciusko Co 3 Jul (Kyle Miller). An excellent tally of 56 Eastern Whip-poor-wills was made at Sand Ridge State Forest, Mason Co, IL 4 Jul (Ian Souza-Cole). 

King Rail reports came from nine distinct locations in IL and at three sites in three different counties in IN. Two individuals were noted at Springbrook Prairie FP, DuPage Co, IL 6 Jun (Joseph L. Suchecki); at Bailey Wetland, Richland Co, IL 8 Jun (Robert E. Shelby); and in Meredosia, Morgan Co, IL 16 Jun (Craig A. Taylor). A successful nesting occurred at Goose Pond (Logan Lakins, m. ob.).


The peak count of Black-necked Stilts in IL was 45 at Emiquon 14 Jul (Vicky Sroczynski). Sightings from IL’s northern tier included two in LaSalle Co 6 and 8 Jun (Alyssa Rod et al., Craig A. Taylor) and two at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Grundy Co 7 Jun (Anne Kotowski). Northern tier Black-necked Stilts in IN included two in Jasper Co 3 Jun (ph. Ryan Kaeb), one at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, Allen Co 6 Jun (Philip Wixom, David Ward), and one at Kankakee State FWA, Starke Co 8 Jun (Lynn Vernon). Peak counts of American Avocets included four at Chautauqua NWR, Mason Co, IL 31 Jul (Colin Dobson, Adam W. Sell, et al.) and four at Rend L., Jefferson Co, IL 20 Jun (Dan M. Kassebaum). IL hosted at least 13 more avocets during the season, and a total of nine American Avocets at six sites were reported in IN. 

A Black-bellied Plover in basic plumage appeared at Patoka R. NWR, Gibson Co, IN 25 Jun (Jeremy Ross) and lingered through 28 Jun (Cathy Meyer). The Piping Plover pair of Monty and Rose at Montrose was again successful in producing young, with four hatched and three surviving to fledging (Tamima Itani, m. ob.). Four Piping Plovers seen in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 28 Jul (ph. Rob Birnberg, m. ob.) were likely birds released nearby after botulism outbreaks at Wisconsin breeding sites forced relocation. 

A notable count of 13 Upland Sandpipers took place on a sod farm in McLean Co, IL 26 Jul (Dustin Holschuh). At Michigan City Harbor, LaPorte Co, four molting adult Hudsonian Godwits on 19 Jul (ph. John Kendall) provided IN’s second earliest fall record. Wilson’s Snipe were again present at Air Station Prairie, Cook Co, IL during June, with four noted there 17 Jun (Tamima Itani, Suzanne Checchia). Nesting has been suspected at this site but not yet confirmed. Solitary Sandpipers were less common than normal in IN, the largest count 13 at Carlson Oxbow Park, Lake Co on 13 Jul (Matt Kalwasinski). The throng of 185 Willets perched on the outer breakwall at Michigan City Harbor, LaPorte Co 2 Jul (Kenneth J. Brock) constituted IN’s fourth largest tally. IN’s only Wilson’s Phalarope report was of a likely late migrant near Graysville, Sullivan Co, 3 Jun (Steve Lima).

Gulls through Spoonbills

On the south side of Evansville, Vanderburgh Co, IN three Laughing Gulls were seen 9 Jun (Ian Wiist), and an additional single was at L. Gibson, Gibson Co, IN 6 Jul (Chuck Mills). Five Laughing Gulls were reported in IL: at Emiquon 19–20 Jun (ph. Zita Robertson, m. ob.) and nearby in Havana, Fulton Co 24 Jun (Matthew Williams); at Waukegan, Lake Co 29 Jun (Annette McClellan, Dawn Fronk); at Montrose 22 Jul (Alan F. Stokie); and at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co 28 Jul (Jim R. Herkert). Unusual for summer, a California Gull was in residence at L. Springfield 19 Jul+ (ph. Colin Dobson, Keith A. McMullen, m. ob.). The lone reports of black-backed gulls consisted of one Lesser Black-backed Gull in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 17 Jul (Adam W. Sell) and one Great Black-backed Gull in Winthrop Harbor’s North Point Marina, Lake Co, IL 10 Jun (Adam W. Sell) and 11 Jun (Donnie R. Dann).

Following entry of Tropical Storm Cristobal into the region, IL’s fourth Sooty Tern was discovered on a rooftop in Seneca Township, McHenry Co 10 Jun (ph. Amy Keller). The bird was taken into captivity but did not survive; the specimen is in the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History. Least Terns nested at the traditional sites in Gibson Co and Spencer Co in IN with a high count of 95 individuals (adults plus young) at two Gibson Co sites on 2 Jul (Chuck Mills). Out of range was an additional adult at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis 15 Jun (ph. Randy Wilson) that provided the seventh record for the site. Least Terns nested in Miller City, Alexander Co, IL where a peak count of 57 was made 6 Jun (Jude Vickery, Ryan Jones).

The explosion of Neotropic Cormorants into IL continued. Five were at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co 6 Jun (Frank R. Holmes), and nine others were reported. On 28 Jun, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was photographed at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis, IN (Darlayne Coughlin), providing a first record for the site.

A Glossy Ibis was in Jonesboro, Union Co, IL 2–4 Jun (Adam W. Sell, m. ob.), another was at Grand Tower, Jackson Co, IL 5 Jun (Don D. Mullison et al.), and a third was at Emiquon 5–18 Jun (Andrew Gilbert, m. ob.). As usual, White-faced Ibis were more plentiful. There were 23 near Ware, Union Co, IL 2 Jun (Adam W. Sell, Vicky Sroczynski), with five remaining on 3 Jun (Travis DeNeal) and four still there 4 Jun (Christopher Gilbert). Two were at Emiquon 5 Jun (Glenn Giacinto, Steven J. Huggins) and 7 Jun (Jude Vickery, Ryan Jones). A single White-faced Ibis was seen at Goose Pond 6 Jun (Ed Hopkins).

It was a phenomenal season for Roseate Spoonbills as four birds were reported in IN. An immature was found in the Oatsville Bottoms, Gibson Co 21 Jun (Jeremy Ross, m. ob.); it remained through 25 Jun, when it was seen to fly northeast over the Patoka R. oxbow (Evan Speck, ph. Scott Atteberry), providing a first record for Pike Co. On 1 Jul, another immature was seen at North Fork Waterfowl Resting Area, Monroe Co (Kathy Ruesinnk, Liz Robb, ph. Vern Wilkins, ph. Scott Evans, m. ob.), remaining in the general area through the end of the season. Remarkably, two immatures were photographed together near Rome, Perry Co 26 Jul+ (ph. Jim Fiedler et al.).

Vultures through Falcons

Two Black Vultures at Kickapoo SP, Vermilion Co 14 Jul (vt. Zachary Sutton) provided the northernmost sighting in IL this season, and a Black Vulture in IN’s northern tier was reported near Roselawn, Jasper Co 9 Jun (Adriana Losey, Lucas Rot). At least 27 Osprey nests were active in IL, an excellent number for a species that was absent as a breeder for most of the 20th century. One Swallow-tailed Kite was seen in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 19 Jun (Dawn Klamut) while another was at Rend L., Franklin Co, IL 25 Jul (Ryan Healey). Swainson’s Hawk observations were limited to the Burlington, Kane Co, IL site where they are regular in summer; observations occurred during 4 Jun–12 Jul (Glenn Giacinto, m. ob.).

Sightings of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were unusually numerous this season. In the northwest corner of IL, where they occur regularly in small numbers during this time of year, observations of multiple individuals included three at Mississippi Palisades SP, Carroll Co 17 Jun (Matthew Dickerson) and two at the Upper Mississippi River NWR, Carroll Co 12 Jun (David Shealer). Less usual were sightings away from this region that may have involved lingering spring migrants: one in Chicago 20 Jun (ph. Scott Judd) and one at Moraine View SP, McLean Co 21 Jun (Wayne Hochstetler).

A pair of Merlins in Elkhart, Elkhart Co, IN was first seen and photographed 8 Jun (Paul Mayer). One of the pair was seen carrying food on 27 Jun (Ed Hopkins), and a specific pine tree was identified as the nest site 30 Jun (Christian Zeser), confirming IN’s third breeding attempt by the species. A well-documented Merlin nesting in Rockford, Winnebago Co, IL 9 Jun–30 Jul involved a pair of adults and three fledglings (ph. John C. Longhenry, ph. Daniel T. Williams). Another nest in Zion, Lake Co, IL 5–18 Jun produced two young (Eric W. Walters), and one Merlin in Galesburg, Knox Co, IL 2 Jul (James Mountjoy) was near an unsuccessful nest site where two adults were present during spring. IL had its first confirmed Merlin nesting in 2016. 


Western Kingbirds nested in Havana, Mason Co, IL (Trevor Slovick, m. ob.) and in Meredosia, Scott Co, IL (Colin Dobson, Trevor Slovick, m. ob.), in addition to the regular breeding sites in the greater St. Louis area. Also, a pair of Western Kingbirds was at the traditional nesting site at the Evansville Regional Airport, Vanderburgh Co, IN (Evan Speck, m. ob.). Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were in Mattoon, Coles Co, IL 3–5 Jun (Ron Bradley, m. ob.) and in Meredosia, Scott and Morgan Cos, IL 15–26 Jun (Colin Dobson, m. ob.). 

Loggerhead Shrikes had an encouragingly high rate of reproductive success in IN. In seven breeding territories, six of the breeding pairs had reproductive success with 28 confirmed fledglings produced, several from second nesting attempts following failed or successful first attempts (Amy Kearns). With Loggerhead Shrike numbers declining in IL, reports of eight in Albion, Edwards Co, IL 30 Jul (Robert E. Shelby) and six at Ayres Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve, Carroll Co, IL 26 Jun (Colin Dobson) were welcome. 

A very late (possibly summering or even nesting?) Blue-headed Vireo was noted at Fox Ridge SP, Coles Co, IL 2 and 28 Jun (Ron Bradley). An out-of-range Fish Crow was observed in Aurora, Kane Co, IL 24 Jun (†Theresa LeCompte). Four Red-breasted Nuthatches at Greenwood Cemetery in Rockford, Winnebago Co, IL 19 Jun (John C. Longhenry) suggested a successful nesting. Two Brown Creepers at Skokie Lagoons, Cook Co, IL, were seen 11 Jun carrying nesting material (Jeff Bilsky, Amanda Tichacek) and were still present 16 Jun (Glenn Giancinto); the species nested at this site during 2019. In Marshall Co, IN, 10 Brown Creepers were tallied 3 Jul (Kyle Miller et al.), furnishing IN’s highest ever summer count.

On 10 June, two male Red Crossbills flew in from the east and landed close to the green tower at Dunes SP, Porter Co, IN (ph. Tom Johnson, Doug Gochfeld). The two birds called frequently, and an audio recording revealed that they were Type 4 (Douglas-fir) Red Crossbills. This was only the third June record for IN since 1980. Surprising were July reports of single Pine Siskins in St. Joseph Co, IN on the 13th (Titus Mast) and in Elkhart Co, IN on the 18th (Fred Yoder).

Unusual for summer, a Spotted Towhee was noted in Big River State Forest, Henderson Co, IL 16 Jun (Kelly J. McKay). Record numbers (>500) of Orchard Orioles were reported in IN, the maximum count consisting of 10 at Bluegrass FWA, Warrick Co 7 Jun (John Meredig). It was also a record summer for Baltimore Orioles in IN with more than 1200 reported, the peak count 21 along Pumpkinvine Trail, Elkhart Co 13 Jun (Bruce Glick).

A late-lingering Northern Waterthrush was present in Chicago’s Douglass Park 11 Jun–2 Jul (Eric D. Gyllenhaal). Black-and-white Warblers were unusually prevalent in IN with 41 reported across 14 central and southern counties. The maximum count was of six in Yellowwood SF, Brown Co on 14 Jun (Peter Scott), tying the largest summer count for IN. It was also a good summer for Prothonotary Warblers in IN with >700 individuals reported that included an amazing peak tally of 114, IN’s third largest summer count, that was made while kayaking the Tippecanoe River 3 Jul (Kyle Miller et al.). An early fall migrant Tennessee Warbler arrived at Montrose 27 Jul (Henry Griffin, Isoo O’Brien). Tardy Mourning Warblers included individuals at Montrose 24 Jun (Robert D. Hughes, ph. Tamima Itani, m. ob.) and at Greene Valley FP, DuPage Co, IL 30 Jun (Davida Kalina, Michael A. Madsen). 

A record-late Palm Warbler in IN was logged at the Cope Environmental Center, Wayne Co on 18 Jun (James Parliament), four days later than the next latest record. Two late Yellow-rumped Warblers were at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 24 Jun (Donna Kenski). Surprising was an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler that was photographed in West Lafayette, Tippecanoe Co, IN on 4 Jun (Roxie Easter). Following six years of single-digit summer totals of Black-throated Green Warblers in IN, 2020 yielded 30 individuals. The maximum counts were of nine on 11 Jun in Brown, Jackson, and Monroe Cos (Jerry Downs) and 10 in Monroe and Jackson Cos on 2 Jul (Brad Jackson), the latter tying IN’s second largest summer count. Also notable were single Black-throated Green Warblers at Montrose 22 Jun (Robert D. Hughes), at Swallow Cliff FP, Cook Co, IL 26 Jun (Douglas F. Stotz), and at Wolf Road Prairie, Cook Co, IL 4 Jul (Kyle Wiktor). A tardy Canada Warbler was reported at Pigeon River FWA, Lagrange Co, IN 8 Jun (John Helmuth), and even later was southern IN’s first July record, which occurred at Eagle Slough Natural Area, Vanderburgh Co on the seventh (Elizabeth Hanson).

An excellent season for Scarlet Tanagers in IN was highlighted by a peak tally of 19 in Brown and Monroe Cos, 2 Jul (Brad Jackson). A male Painted Bunting was in East St. Louis, St. Clair Co, IL 18–28 Jun (ph. Tommy Goodwin, m. ob.) where this species occurs regularly during summer.

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 18 Jan 2022.

Photos–Illinois & Indiana: Summer 2020

Owing to Tropical Storm Cristobal, this Sooty Tern, Illinois’s fourth, found its way to a rooftop in Seneca Township near Marengo, Illinois 10 Jun 2020, from where it was taken into captivity for rehabilitation. The bird, seen here at the McHenry County Conservation District Wildlife Resource Center on 11 Jun 2020, unfortunately died. Photo © Sara Denham.

One of an astounding 14 Neotropic Cormorants in Illinois during Summer 2020, this bird was present 20 Jun to 3 Jul 2020 (here 23 Jun 2020) at Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve, DuPage Co, Illinois. Photo © Bonnie Graham.

One of four Roseate Spoonbills seen in Indiana, this immature bird with a light-colored bill and a pale pink back was seen and photographed by scores of birders at North Fork Refuge in Monroe Co throughout the month of July. 1 Jul 2020. Photo © Vern Wilkins.

This Merlin nest with three downy young in Rockford, Illinois 4 Jul 2020 was one of four nests in the Illinois-Indiana region this Summer of 2020, despite regional breeding by Merlins being a rare event. Photo © John Longhenry.