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Local Birding

Chautauqua Unit
of the Illinois River National Wildlife Refuge

Directions From Peoria, go south on Route 29 through Pekin. Turn west onto the Manito blacktop (at the federal penitentiary). Follow the Manito blacktop for around 27 miles through Manito and Forest City. Turn north (right) onto 1950E. The main refuge entrance is on the left about 1 mile later.

Google Map to Chautauqua

FWS Map of Lake Chautauqua

eBird: Birding Hotspot Map

Description The refuge is comprised of historical Illinois River backwater lakes that had been drained and farmed and have since been reclaimed by river floods. In 1936 the area became part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. The refuge is comprised of a mix of backwater lake, bottomland forest, floodplain wetland, and a small amount of upland forest. It has been designated as an Important Bird Areas and is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. It provides habitat for 60-70 percent of the waterfowl which migrate along the Illinois River.

Seven of the 264 species found on the refuges are federal threatened or endangered species, and 80 are Illinois threatened or endangered species.

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Suggested Route/Stops Cross dike & Boat Ramp. From here you have views of the north and south pools and a Bald Eagle nest directly across the lake. Many times there are spectacular numbers of ducks and shorebirds visible from this vantage.

Goofy Ridge Boat Yard. Get out here and walk down to the end of the boat ramp to look out over Clear Lake and Lake Chautauqua.

Refuge Headquarters. Walk the interpretive trail. It has a nice flat easy trail with three overlooks of the lake. Walk the old road behind the headquarters to the old lookout tower(closed) and the Illinois Natural History Survey Forbes Biological Station. This area is good for Pileated Woodpeckers and especially good for warblers in spring.

Commonly Seen Birds Spring/Fall -- Most diving and dabbling ducks (including tens of thousands of mallards), terns, most shorebird species including American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts, migrating warblers, waders, Northern Harriers, Ospreys

Summer -- Nesting Bald Eagles, large numbers of waders

Winter -- Bald Eagles, Tundra & Trumpeter Swans, Greater White-fronted Geese

Specialties Chautauqua routinely hosts rarities, most recently a Long-tailed Jaeger in the fall of 2000.
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