Shorebirds in the Illinois River Valley

Read the full story in the Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal.

Millions of wetland-dependent birds undergo long-distance migrations from wintering grounds in Central and South America to breeding grounds in the arctic and rely on wetlands to stop and refuel in the United States along the way. Shorebirds, which are a group of long-legged wading birds frequently found along shorelines and on mudflats, are notoriously long-distance migrants, even though individuals of some species, such as least sandpipers (Calidris minutilla), only weigh about an ounce. Refueling areas, known as “stopover sites,” are essential for migrating shorebirds to forage and replace fat stores during these energetically taxing trips. The midwestern United States is an important region that provides many of these stopover wetlands where birds stay for a few days to multiple weeks.

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