Mammals and Birds
There is an abundance of wildlife that depends on the Chicago River for food, shelter, and reproduction. As the quality of both the aquatic and riparian habitat improves, we can expect to see even more animals. When you walk along the river, keep your eyes open. The variety and location of wildlife can be surprising.
Click on a type of animal to jump to that section.
Mammals play important roles in the food webs of practically every ecosystem. They are herbivores, insectivores, carnivores and omnivores; and can be both predator or prey.
Many terrestrial mammals still have close ties to rivers. Herbivores such as mice, rabbits and deer are primary consumers, feeding on plant material and are eaten by numerous omnivores and carnivores. Omnivores such as moles, shrews, opossums, and raccoons feed on a wide variety of plant and animal matter. Carnivores such as foxes, coyotes, and bobcats feed on other animals and can be essential in the population control of other animals.
The University of Illinois Extension has a complete guide to the mammals of Illinois, most of which can be seen along the river. Some common mammals are highlighted below.
- Bats (12 species native to Illinois)
- Coyote (Canis latrans)
- Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
- North American beaver (Castor canadensis)
- Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
- Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
- River otter (Lontra canadensis)
- White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
- Ecology of the Chicago Region: Mammals
- Common Mammals
- River Life Stories: American mink, bobcat, coyote, little brown bat, meadow vole, muskrat, North American beaver, red fox, river otter, and virginia opossum
The Forest Preserves of Cook County has a bird checklist which includes almost 300 species found throughout the preserves, most of which can be spotted along the Chicago River, especially during migration. Audubon also has a guide to North American birds. Some common birds are highlighted below.
- Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
- Black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
- Common tern (Sterna hirundo)
- Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
- Great blue heron (Ardea herodius)
- Mallard duck (Anas platyrynhcos)
- Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
- Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
- Ecology of the Chicago Region: Birds
- Common Summer Birds of Chicago
- Common Winter Birds of Chicago
- Common Sparrows
- Warblers of the Chicago Region
- FPCC Bird Checklist
- River Life Stories: bald eagle, barred owl, belted kingfisher, black-crowned night heron, Cooper's hawk, great blue heron, osprey, red-winged blackbird, scarlet tanager, and yellow-headed blackbird