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DuPage Hotline
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What territory does this hotline cover?

These counties: DuPage, Kane, northern Will (north of Joliet).  Extreme rarities from the rest of Will, as well as DeKalb, and Kendall counties will be reported.


What are the hotline objectives?

The hotline has the objective of getting the word out on RARE birds.  We define "rare" below.  We also offer information on activities of the DuPage Birding Club.  These objectives are limited by the fact that this is a volunteer position for the compiler, and his work schedule may interfere with the speediest possible updates.


What birds should I report?

Please refer to the "Checklist of the Birds of DuPage County" which is authored by Denis Kania.  You can obtain the checklist at many bird stores in the area as well as at the Morton Arboretum.  In addition, the checklist is available on the Web.

Please report any bird you see if it is never shown as any more common than "R" except for one season where it may be listed as "U".  For example, an American Bittern is listed as "R" or rarer for the entire year, except for late spring when it is shown as "U".  Please report this bird!

To make it even easier for you, we've compiled an "All Points Bulletin" list.  These are birds particularly wanted on the Hotline and that fit the above criteria.  If the bird you've seen is on this list, or not even on the DuPage Checklist, please report it.

If a rare bird is currently being reported on the hotline, please report if you were able to relocate it or have additional information.


How do I report my sightings?

In most cases, the preferred method is to email the hotline compiler at  If you're in the field and you want to use the phone, call 630-406-8111. .


What information should I report?

Please provide your name, your phone number (very important even if you're emailing your report), the exact location of the bird, the time of day, and, if possible, directions to the bird.   If the location is not listed in the Chicago Birding Guide or Directions, please provide an address or nearby intersection.

We get more than a few reports of birds that are, for lack of a better word, remarkable.  In come cases, we don't follow up on these reports unless you have provided some justification in your initial report for the identification.  Here is what you need to tell us if you have a sighting that is exceedingly rare:

  • Describe all of the fieldmarks that convince you of your ID
  • Did you note those fieldmarks before or after you looked in the field guide?
  • What field guide did you use: western or eastern edition?
  • What other birds did you consider and eliminate?
  • What was the behavior of the bird?
  • How far were you from the bird and how long did you observe it?
  • What previous experience do you have with this bird?
  • When did you see it?  What time of day?
  • Are you sure about the sighting or are you uncertain?
  • Do you have a photograph, drawing or field notes?

Why didn't my report make it onto the hotline?

Some reports do not make it onto the hotline.  Generally this will be because they are not rare enough.  See our criteria above.  In particular, we will probably not include birds that are missing from the All Points Bulletin list.

Other reports are just too old.  If your report comes in more than a few days after you've seen the bird, it may not be reportable.

Sometimes the bird is so rare that it is worthy of further, immediate investigation.  That means we need your phone number, not just your email address.  Lots of people don't leave their phone number on their messages.

If you have reported a remarkable bird, one that is exceedingly rare, and have not reported the information discussed above, we may not have time to do further investigation and the report may not make it onto the hotline.

As a matter of policy, the hotline does NOT report the locations of birds that are in danger of being harmed, even by well-intentioned birders.  For example, the specific locations of birds on the nest will not be reported unless it is in an area that birders cannot disturb.  The owl nesting site in the Buffalo Field at Fermilab is such a location.  In addition, winter species that could be harassed off of the roost will only be reported in the most general of terms  (e.g. "Long-eared Owls are being seen at Fermilab" or "Short-eared Owls have been reported from Pratt's Wayne").  If these birds are lifers for you, and you want further information on them, please email us.

Finally, please don't be upset if your report didn't get included in the hotline.  Sometimes editorial and deadline decisions just get made which result in yours not making it.


My pet bird escaped.  Will you put it on your hotline?

We will put escapees on the hotline one time only.  The objective is not only to assist you, but to prevent birders from getting excited about an exotic species that is, in fact an escapee.  Your name and phone number will be included on the report and if your bird is seen, it is up to the birder to advise you.  Please be aware that we've done this a couple of times, and it has never been successful.  So don't get your hopes up.


I see some birds that have big white patches on them, or are all white.  Are albino birds rare?

Well, they are not seen often, but they are not birds that birdwatchers will "chase" and we generally don't report them on the hotline.  For example, there has been a white crow hanging around the Hidden Lake area for a couple of years.


Are there archives of previous hotlines?

Yes.  We maintain archives back to October of 1994.  Please click here to view them.


I've got a bird at my feeder that I can't identify.  Can you help?

Your humble hotline compiler is really rotten at trying to figure out what birds are from descriptions.  Your best bet is to find a field guide and go through it.  See our guide to identifying birds.  However, if you insist, please include the following information when you ask your question:

  • The shape of the bill
  • The general color of the bird
  • The color of the head, back, tail, wings, throat, breast, belly
  • Are there wingbars?
  • Are there spots or stripes and where are they?
  • Do you see any white on the bird?  Where is it?
  • What color are the legs.
  • Does the bird have a stripe going through its eye?
  • Does it have an eye ring?
  • What is the size of the bird?  This can be very misleading, so let's just make it three options:  sparrow-sized, robin-sized, or crow-sized.

I've got a hawk in my back yard eating my birds.  What is it and what do I do?  Is it rare?

If your yard or the surrounding area is wooded, it's most likely a Cooper's Hawk.  Small birds are their main diet.  These hawks are as natural a part of the landscape as are the songbirds.  By feeding the small birds, you're providing the hawk with a delightful buffet.  The only thing you can do is stop feeding the birds until the Cooper's Hawk moves on.  During migration, the hawk in question might be a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  The Cooper's Hawk used to be a pretty rare bird.  Now it is becoming pretty common.  The Sharp-shinned is pretty unusual, except in migration.

The other most likely hawk in your backyard is a Red-Tailed Hawk.  They are not rare.


What is the hawk that I see flying over the interstates and sitting on the lightpoles?

It's most likely a Red-tailed Hawk.  Look for a rusty colored tail.  This is a common bird throughout the year.  In the winter and during migration, there are other possibilities, but if you see that tail, you'll know.


We have a small bird nesting in our parking lot.  It's brown and has these black bands around its neck.  And it makes this peeping noise and goes crazy when anyone comes near it.  It seems to drag its wing around.  What is it?

A Killdeer.  They tend to nest in shallow depressions in mulch or gravel.  That behavior with the wing is called a broken wing display and is intended to distract predators (in this case - you) away from its nest or young.


Some baby birds fell out of their nest!  What do I do?

Put them back in the nest.  Mom won't mind that you handled them.  If it's been a while and Mom doesn't return, check out the Willowbrook Wildlife Haven in Glen Ellyn.


I found an injured bird.  What do I do?

Check out the Willowbrook Wildlife Haven.


A robin (or cardinal or some other bird) keeps pecking at our window.  What is it doing?

Birds don't know about reflections.  The bird is seeing its reflection in the window, and it thinks it's another bird infringing on its territory.  You might try putting some sort of object in front of the window so that the bird can't see its reflection.


I see birders using walkie-talkies.  What's up with that?

Sometimes birders get spread out at a particular site, or they move about in car caravans.  Or they split a large field trip into two groups.  All of these situations present a terrific opportunity to use walkie-talkies to stay in touch.  If you're interested, get a Family Radio System unit that supports the privacy codes (beware - the cheaper versions don't support the codes).  In the Chicago area, we use Channel 11, privacy code 22.


Woodpeckers are destroying my house!  What do I do?

They're either looking for food because the side of your house sounds like it might have bugs inside it, or they're drumming to protect their territory or to attract a mate.  There are a couple of things you can do. 

1.  Hang up pie plates near the spot where the bird is pecking.  The shiny movement will probably scare them away.  Shiny Mylar balloons may also work.

2.  Cover up the damaged area with sheet metal.

3.  Gently use the garden hose and spray the woodpecker, either when it's pecking or roosting nearby. 

4.  Since they're looking for food, put a suet feeder up and keep it stocked.

5.  Some have reported success with a plastic owl model.  However, this is only temporary and the woodpecker will learn that it's not a threat.  Try moving it around.

Whatever you do, remember that Woodpeckers, as well as most other birds, are protected by FEDERAL law.  You cannot harm them.


I'm new at this.  What kind of binoculars should I buy?

If you spend less than $200 on a pair of binoculars, you should consider it a starter and plan on buying another pair later on, if your interest in birding continues.  Generally $200+ will get you a respectable pair of binoculars that will last you for a while.  You should be very careful about your purchase, and try out the binoculars in the store.  Make sure you test them wearing your glasses and try to use them outside. Eagle Optics near Madison, WI sells optics through their catalog, but they also have a retail shop.  They are very helpful and it's worth the trip.  If you'd like to read more, visit this page to see our link to a FAQ on optics.


I'm new at this.  What field guide should I buy?

The Peterson Guide (eastern birds) is what I recommend for beginning birders.  It will fit in your back pocket and it only covers the eastern half of the country.  That way you don't get confused with western birds.  The pictures and text are geared to helping birders of all skill levels.  Your next field guide should be the National Geographic Society Field Guide.  It is bigger and covers all of the birds of North America.  Most birders do not recommend photographic field guides.  Drawings are preferred because the artist can show the birds exactly in the manner necessary to help you identify them.  Photographic guides can only use the photographs that are available, and they're rarely perfect.  Photographic guides ARE a good second reference, but your first should be either of the two mentioned.


What do I do about my sick parrot?

I don't know.  The club is about birdwatching...not caged birds.


Do you have any suggestions about making sure I've identified my bird properly?

Gosh!  That question that deserves a longer article.  Please click here for our suggestions to help you ID birds.



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Updated 4/28/02
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