URBANA - A new book, Illinois Birds: A Century of Change, literally took 100 years to write. The first comprehensive survey of birds in Illinois was conducted from 1906-1909. It was repeated from 1956-1958 and a technical book was written comparing the two surveys. When the 100-year anniversary of that first survey was approaching, ornithologists Mike Ward, Jeff Walk, Steve Bailey, and Jeff Brawn seized the window of opportunity to do it again and write a book, this time with 100 years of data, lots of pictures, and a broader appeal.
"Many things have changed since 1906. They didn't have bird books or mp3 players with bird calls on them. They carried guns, and if they could not identify the bird, they likely shot it," said Ward who is an author of the book. "It's also harder today to walk randomly across Illinois as they did then because of private land issues, so it's unlikely that we walked in their exact same footsteps, but we know we were in the same general area."
The researchers also walked down Michigan Avenue. "Most ornithologists avoid urban areas," Ward said. "But a lot of great conservation happens in the forest preserves in Cook, McHenry and Lake counties. Fifty years from now, most of northern Illinois will probably be one large metropolis and understanding the dynamics of bird populations in urban areas is going to be important for the future management of species in these areas."
Ward said the book is filled with pictures and figures, largely due to the fact that in 1906 the surveyors carried a "state of the art" camera and were told to take a lot of photos. "We have several pictures in the book that were taken in the exact same spot in 1906, 1956 and 2006 so you can see how Illinois has changed and in some cases has not changed. There are areas in central Illinois where the only change in the last 100 years is that now the field is a soybean field instead of a corn field. There are areas in southern Illinois that h
|Contact: Debra Levey Larso|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences