This story originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of The Chicago Birder, COS's quarterly member newsletter. For more information about this, other membership benefits, and ways your support makes our work like the following possible, take a look at our membership page.

One of the many ways Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) supports bird conservation in the Chicago region and beyond is through our partnership with Illinois Ornithological Society (IOS) and its grants program. With the objective to promote scientific research and education in order to improve knowledge and awareness of birds in Illinois, IOS offers several small grants every year with awards of up to $1000. These grants are open any students, professionals, organizations, or individuals conducting bird and/or birding related projects in Illinois. COS proudly supports this program through direct funding of selected projects.

This year, COS has the pleasure of fully funding through IOS’s grants program, Luke Malanchuk from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Luke, a graduate research assistant in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences department, is conducting research on shorebirds in the Illlinois River Valley. Last year, he began been working on a multi-year project to perfect methods of estimating shorebird numbers from the air. This research will make way for better population counts of shorebirds using the Illinois River and other wetlands as critical migratory stopovers. While it is still early in the project, results are looking promising!

plane at woodyard.jpg

This year however, he and his team are taking things one step further.  To get even more detailed information than ever before on shorebird migration through Illinois, Luke acquired backpack transmitters and placed them on 13 Pectoral Sandpipers. The transmitters will track the movement of these birds all through Illinois and along their incredible journey across hemispheres. Information like this is, and will only become more critical in informing conservation decisions across Illinois, the country, and right here at home.

COS funding this grant was a no-brainer for many reasons. Shorebirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world right now. Thankfully this issue has received a lot more attention of late, most recently with a NY Times article that went viral on the subject. However, it is only through continued awareness and support of conservation and research that we will finally reverse these trends afflicting these birds. Additionally, Chicago sits along a major shoreline and several major water ways, all of which are heavily utilized by shorebirds during migration and breeding. It falls to us as responsible stewards of these waters to understand exactly how we can best share them with our avian friends. And finally, as birders, who doesn’t love shorebirds? Their diversity, adaptations, and unique niche is just another example of how amazing the world of birds is and why we continue to get up at the crack of dawn with our binoculars.

Luke demonstrating a newly outfitted sandpiper.

Luke demonstrating a newly outfitted sandpiper.