While the weather may not agree, the wild animals of Illinois seem to have decided that springtime is here! Our clinic is once again filling with orphaned infant and juvenile animals in need of care. At the same time, our student volunteers are coming to the end of the school year and have been studying for their last rounds of exams. So how do you split the care of these orphans between those already crunched for time? Hard work and organization!
Nesting season for most Illinois wild bird species ranges from early March to the end of August. There is a surprising variety of strategies for nesting among different species. For example, Belted Kingfishers build nests up to 15 feet deep in riverbanks, while hummingbirds and Blue Jays go with the more typical route of weaving of twigs, bark, and leaves nestled in tree branches. Unfortunately, in residential or rural areas, certain strategies may put nests in danger of accidental destruction from everyday human activities. We’ve compiled some tips for the backyard conservationist to help protect these native birds while they raise their young.
What is an invasive species? According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, an invasive species is one that is not native to a particular ecosystem and that does or is likely to cause harm to the environment and/or the economy.
The Cattle Egret is an invasive species of heron found in many parts of the world, including Illinois. Originally native to southern Spain and Portugal, in the early 19th century it began “one of the most rapid and wide-reaching natural expansions of any bird species”
It is speculated that the cattle egret first arrived in the Americas in 1877 after flying across the Atlantic Ocean, but it was not thought to be established there until 1930. They arrived in North America in 1941 and were bred in Florida beginning in 1953. They are now seen throughout the country from Florida to California. Also known as the cow crane, cow bird or cow heron, cattle egrets are in the habit of following cattle or other large animals and feeding on insects that are attracted to these animals. Although considered invasive in Illinois, they are not known to cause any significant ecological damage. They can, however, be a safety hazard at airports and spread disease.
Continue reading: WMC Conservation Newsletter March 2018
By: Kate Keets, WMC Conservation Chair, Class of 2021