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Hotspots Near You

74. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s modern-day birding mecca, located on the Lake Michigan shore, is the place to see warblers, gulls, terns, sparrows, shorebirds, orioles, and rarities

Site of a Cold War-era military barracks, the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary is Chicago’s modern-day birding mecca. I enjoy birding it because, for a relatively small area, it’s always full of activity.

The so-called Magic Hedge, 150 yards of trees and shrubs, is one of the best spots. I also keep a close eye on the dunes and beach just north of the Hedge, as well as other spots along the lakefront.

The sanctuary is an important stopover for birds migrating along the lakefront or across Lake Michigan. Not only is it fairly active, but anything can pop up, especially during migration. I’ve watched many warblers in spring, including Hooded, Black-throated Blue, and Cerulean. And last fall I was lucky enough to see a Townsend’s Solitaire that showed up for a few days, a rarity from the west. The promise that virtually any bird is possible draws birders — from rank beginners to seasoned veterans — from all over Chicagoland.

If you make it to Montrose this fall, watch for Hooded Merganser, Sanderling, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Cape May Warbler, to name a few. — Demetri Lafkas

Demetri Lafkas is an avid Chicagoland birder. He is actively involved in the DuPage Bird Club and the Illinois Ornithological Society.

74. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago, Illinois


Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, a part of the Chicago Lakefront Important Bird Area, is located on the north side of the city. From downtown, take Lake Shore Dr. north four miles to the Montrose Ave. exit. Go east less than half a mile to Montrose Harbor Dr. and turn right. The sanctuary will be on your left. Park anywhere along the road.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
41°57’48.57″N 87°38’3.14″W


Beach, dunes, harbor, hedge, meadow, shrubs.


Mostly flat and narrow dirt paths. Steps lead to the sandy beach past the dunes. Not wheelchair-accessible.


More than 300 species, including gulls, terns, loons, scoters, shorebirds, sparrows, warblers, and thrushes. Depending on the season, common species include: Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, Cooper’s Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Caspian Tern, Chimney Swift, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Hermit Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song and White-throated Sparrows, Baltimore Oriole, and House Finch. Recent rarities: Burrowing Owl, Townsend’s Solitaire, Brant, White-winged Dove, and Spotted Towhee.

When to go

Spring and fall migration are best, but any time of year is worthwhile. Birds are most active in early morning and early evening.


Birdwalks occasionally conducted by local bird clubs. No amenities at the sanctuary. A few portable toilets near the harbor. Drive west on Montrose Ave. to find restaurants.


City park. Open daily. No fees. Free parking.


Bring a scope for watching waterfowl on the lake or shorebirds on the beach. For recent sightings, visit the Illinois listserv or eBird.

For more info

Chicago Ornithological Society.
Illinois Ornithological Society.

Sites nearby

North Pond Nature Sanctuary
Hotspot Near You No. 15. Located at W. Fullerton Pkwy. and N. Cannon Dr. Songbirds, waterfowl, and herons. A great place to photograph birds.

Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Lincoln Park
Just south of Montrose Point at Lake Shore Dr. and W. Addison St. Warblers, cuckoos, and owls.

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