A Chicago Birder’s Guide to Transit-accessible Birding Hotspots

Chicago’s transit system makes it easy to get around the city without a car. This is especially true if your destination is the loop or the airport. But if your destination is to find birds at one of the Chicago region’s natural areas, it can feel a bit more like you’re stuck without many options. Luckily, hundreds of bird species and several natural areas are within reach of city transit, from city parks, to county forest preserves and a National Park.

LaBagh Woods

— Nearest CTA “L” stop: Jefferson Park Blue Line Station

— From there: Transfer to the 92 to Berwyn Red Line at the Jefferson Park Transit Center and take it to Foster & Kilbourn.

— Nearest Metra stop: Forest Glen, Milwaukee District-North

— From there: A 7-minute walk on the N. Forest Glen Avenue and you’ll meet up with the North Branch Trail

It’s no coincidence LaBagh Woods on Chicago’s north side has racked up over 200 bird species and over 2,000 eBird checklists. LaBagh has so many birders because it’s one of the few Cook County Forest Preserves within the city limits and within easy reach of city transit and bicycle routes. This urban forest preserve features floodplain forest and a section of the North Branch of the Chicago River. LaBagh is most popular during migration. In spring and fall, you’re most likely to find all the regular woodland migrants, but LaBagh also has its fair share of rarities. One of the city’s few Swainson’s Warbler sightings has been here and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was recently spotted during a birding festival.

Black-and-white Warbler; Carl Giometti

Black-and-white Warbler; Carl Giometti

If you’re ready to take a break from birding, there are also plentiful opportunities to view other wildlife like mink and turtles, or hop on board to help the LaBagh restoration team cut buckthorn or plant native shrubs.

Birding by Transit is a series by COS board member Stephanie Beilke highlighting birding hotspots that are within walking distance or a short bus ride from the CTA “L”, Metra or South Shore Line. No matter your choice of transportation, these birding destinations are ones that every Chicago birder needs to check off their list.