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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Beware: Red-Winged Blackbirds Are Back And Aggressively Defending Their Lakefront Nests

Signs warning of the birds — sometimes known as "nature's a--holes" — have popped up along the Rogers Park lakefront.

A red-winged blackbird looks on along the seawall near Montrose Harbor on July 12, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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ROGERS PARK — The nice weather might have you contemplating a trip to the lakefront. But your presence may not be welcomed by some lakeshore residents.

“Caution” signs have gone up along the lakefront warning visitors of red-winged blackbirds, which are known to aggressively dive bomb those who get too close to their nests.

Red-winged blackbirds are among the most common birds in Chicago. They are frequently a nuisance during nesting season in June and July, making now the time when the birds are most likely to swoop down on pedestrians.

The birds — known by some as “nature’s a–holes” — nest near bodies of water, making the lakefront a prime spot for run-ins between pedestrians and the animals.

Caution signs have been posted along the lakefront in Rogers Park, including at Loyola and Hartigan beaches, according to Ald. Maria Hadden (49th). Signs have also gone up at Loyola’s campus in Rogers Park, neighbors said.

“We are so fortunate to be able to live alongside a beautiful lake and have wildlife to share our space with,” Hadden said in a social media update to constituents. “These birds are beautiful, fierce parents. Let’s give them some space.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago. Inset: Flickr/KristinChicago
A black bird (on light post) sits above a sign cautioning against “attacking birds” at Loyola’s Rogers Park campus in 2021.

Last year may have been a particularly rough year for lakefront-goers after the blackbirds had the previous summer to themselves during the height of the pandemic, experts said. But joggers and other pedestrians know the birds are an annual nuisance.

Some Rogers Park neighbors said they’ve already had run-ins with the blackbirds this year. One neighbor said they saw fellow joggers get chased away from the path near Lincoln Park Zoo.

“One flapped into me yesterday,” a neighbor said in response to Hadden’s post. “Didn’t hurt. As a fellow parent, I was moved by his concern.”

The act is done when the birds perceive that someone has gotten too close to their nest. Typically, they just swoop down, but they will sometimes attack people. They can draw blood, but their main goal is to scare you away, experts say.

“When this happens, the birds are defending a nest,” said Doug Stotz, ornithologist and senior conservation ecologist at the Field Museum, previously told Block Club. “It’s a conflict between a lot of people versus a lot of nesting birds.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A red-winged blackbird looks on along the seawall near Montrose Harbor on July 12, 2022 during a summery, warm day.

The problem usually lasts through July, Stotz said. There are ways to protect yourself against swooping birds.

For one, the birds tend to swoop down at people by themselves versus those in a group. That’s why joggers have been frequent targets.

The birds are also likely to attack from the rear. So if you suspect there is an irritated blackbird in your midst, try to keep them in front of you, Stotz said.

One jogger suggested on Facebook to wear a backwards baseball hat so that the brim protects your neck from bird attacks.

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