The bird that was center stage at the first Thanksgiving, and Benjamin Franklin’s choice to be our national symbol, almost disappeared from Illinois forever. Like many other species of game animals, from beaver to otters to White-tailed Deer, the Eastern Wild Turkey was almost gone from the state in the early 1900s. Hunting seasons were closed in 1903, but it was almost a case of “too little, too late.” It took the dedicated efforts of conservationists to re-establish the Eastern Wild Turkey in Illinois. Starting in the late 1950s, thousands of birds were captured in other states and relocated to Illinois in order to bolster populations.
The colorful Monarch butterfly, the State Insect of Illinois, is widely distributed across eastern and central North America down to Mexico and along the west coast of the United States. Its caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweeds (Asclepias sp.), and the milky sap in the plant leaves gives Monarch caterpillars and adults a bitter taste. The bright colors of the adults and caterpillars serve as a warning to potential predators.
The Greater Prairie Chicken was once abundant in Illinois. Due to severe habitat loss, populations of the Prairie Chicken went from an estimated 10 million in the mid 1800s to less than 200 individuals today. This species does not migrate.
Field trips, like the one pictured here, were among the many ways the Chicago Academy of Sciences actively included the Chicago community in its scientific work and promoted the appreciation of nature.
The Ring-necked Pheasant is an introduced species found across the state of Illinois. Native to Asia, this species was first brought to Illinois around 1890 and is managed as a game bird.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences (now housed at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum) offers many outdoor opportunities, including classes like those conducted by Frank Woodruff (1867-1926). This image depicts Woodruff's bird identification class in Lincoln Park, possibly near the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ Laflin Building at Armitage and Clark.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, animal specimens were traditionally preserved as study skins or as crudely stuffed mounts. Then, in the early 1910s, a man named Carl Akeley pioneered new specimen preparation techniques that enabled him to create more realistic displays. The Chicago Academy of Sciences also began to experiment with these ideas and devised large, meticulously-detailed dioramas as a new way to represent local species and natural areas.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s scientific collections include several study skins of extinct Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). These four Passenger Pigeon specimens were collected between 1880-1890 in northern Illinois (Evanston and Waukegan).
The Carolina Parakeet was the only native parrot species in eastern North America, with a range that stretched from Florida to the Great Lakes Region, across the Great Plains, and even into New York. Like most parrot species, this was a social bird that lived in large flocks.
This study skin of a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was collected in the northern Chicago suburb of Northfield, Illinois, in 1855 by Robert Kennicott, a well-known Illinois naturalist and one of the founders of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.