While Illinois’ second wettest April brought challenges for residents, the heavy rainfall also impacts another population — birds.
Illinois had its second wettest April on record this year with an average of 7 inches, which is about double the normal amount. Heavy rainfall certainly impacts residents, but it also create challenges for wildlife by destroying nests and feeding ground.
Jeff Hoover, an avian ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, described how flooding can impact birds in the state.
“There are some species that will nest near or close to the ground, within a couple of meters of the ground, and maybe in an average year their nests are safe,” Hoover said. “But if you have a year like this, you can have the water kind of pulsing through and basically washing away their nest.”
Hoover said springtime floods are more damaging to nesting birds in particular because it can impact breeding and reproduction.
“For some of our rare things like the greater prairie chicken, which only occur in two counties in Illinois, you can have some locally heavy rain in just those two counties just at the wrong time and make the whole season of nesting fail or hard to reproduce anything that year,” Hoover said.
Hoover said factors like diminishing natural habitat have a greater impact on the bird population, but the increase in frequent heavy rainfall and flooding would be a contributor.
“If the timing of those flood pulses and durations of the flood pulses or the intensity of it starts changing, that’s when you start having more dramatic and serious consequences for the wildlife nesting,” Hoover said.
Most birds are able to adjust to the rising waters by moving to higher ground or waiting for the water to recede before building a new nest. However, Hoover could see a situation that would lead to more severe impacts from flooding on wildlife
“A lot of times if these floods go down fairly quickly, it’s not that big of an issue,”Hoover said. “But if it happens several times in a season, as in some years, water levels can stay high for a couple months.”
–Illinois News Network