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Features

Forest Preserve’s ‘Pelican Watch’ in Channahon features hikes and hands-on activities

Many other animal-themed programs offered in March, too

The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s “Pelican Watch” on March 14, highlights the many American white pelicans that rest and refuel in the wide waters adjacent to McKinley Woods during migration. The 2020 program takes place at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.
The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s “Pelican Watch” on March 14, highlights the many American white pelicans that rest and refuel in the wide waters adjacent to McKinley Woods during migration. The 2020 program takes place at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.

Twice a year, Will County wildlife watchers can view one of the most fascinating – and biggest – bird species in North America as American white pelicans rest and refuel in local waters during migration.

To take advantage of the spring migration viewing opportunity, the Forest Preserve District of Will County is offering a “Pelican Watch” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 14, at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.

The “Pelican Watch” program is designed to spark “awe and interest” in the birds, Chris Gutmann, facility supervisor at Four Rivers, said in a news release from the district.

The free, family-friendly event will include guided hikes, exhibits, presentations on pelican migration and biology, and hands-on activities that focus on the birds’ wide wingspan and how much food and water their pouches can hold.

The timing of the event is perfect, since people who have been cooped up for winter will want to get outside to start enjoying all things spring, Gutmann said.

And even if the weather isn’t perfect, the Four Rivers building will offer plenty of indoor activities and information, he added.

There is a misconception that pelicans are only found by oceans, Gutmann explained in the release.

But once people become aware that pelicans can be viewed locally during spring and fall migration, the “charismatic” birds are a big draw, he added in the news release.

“They’re just a big goofy looking bird,” he said in the news release. “If you see a bird that looks like that with a 9-foot wingspan coming across (the water) I don’t care who you are, that’s going to get your attention."

McKinley Woods is a perfect location for pelicans to mass as they prepare to head farther north for the summer because it is located at the confluence of the DuPage and Des Plaines Rivers and just upstream from where the Kankakee River joins in to form the Illinois River.

“At the confluence where the DuPage and the Des Plaines meet, that’s just a really wide area,” Gutmann said in the news release. “It’s a big target for a big bird and I think that has a lot to do with it. … That seems to be what they are drawn to.”

The pelicans' fascinating anatomy, including their pouches, and information on how they forage as a group, will be highlighted during the event.

Gutmann also noted that pelicans look more colorful in spring than in the fall because they’re getting ready for nesting.

For information anbout the pelican watch, as well as additional Forest Preserve programs and events, visit, ReconnectWithNature.org.

More bird and animal-themed programming at the Forest Preserve District of Will County

Enjoy spring-themed bird and animal programs with the Forest Preserve District. Here are some of the other programming you can enjoy in March.

• “Senior Coffee Talk: Bird Migration,” 10 to 11:30 a.m., March 10, Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville. Take a look at which birds are heading into Will County and the best preserves at which to view them.

After a brief presentation, participants can discuss all of their favorite birding topics, such as feeders, species and guides while sipping coffee.

Weather permitting, there will be a short walk of less than 0.25 mile around the island to see some of the best birding opportunities. Free; ages 55 or older.

Register at ReconnectWithNature.org or call 815-886-1467.

• “Morning Bird Hike,” 8 to 10 a.m., March 14, Monee Reservoir, Monee Township. Take a spring hike of 1.5 to 2 miles to look for robins, red-winged blackbirds, bluebirds, waterfowl, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, kinglets, brown creepers and more at Monee Reservoir and Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve. Free; ages 16 or older.

• “Animal Olympics,” 1 to 2 p.m., March 14, Isle a la Cache Museum, Romeoville. Learn about Illinois animals that excel at moving fast, balancing, hopping and more, and then test your own skills and strengths compared to what animals can do. Free; ages 5 to 9.

Register by March 12, at ReconnectWithNature.org or call 815-886-1467.

• “Woodcock Walk,” 6:30 to 8 p.m., March 14, Plum Creek Nature Center, Crete Township. In early spring, the male woodcock leaves the safety of the forest to perform an extraordinary courtship performance as the sun sets.

Spend the first part of the evening discovering just how amazing this bird is, then hike 1 mile to view the courtship flights of the male. Free; ages 7 or older.

Register at ReconnectWithNature.org or call 708-946-2216.

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