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Rockford proclaims 2018 ‘Year of the Bird’

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to transport, buy or sell any migratory bird, and its nests or eggs, among other provisions. It’s been around for 100 years. On last week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley learns more about the Act and local efforts to conserve bird populations.

By Jenna Dooley

ROCKFORD – Winnebago County birder Lee Johnson has been bird banding for more than half of the treaty’s lifespan and he has seen improvements in that time.

“In the environmental movement, the amount of pollution has been decreased, the shooting of birds has been decreased, and certain species have been encouraged to return again and a lot of the birds have increased,” Johnson said. “I saw whooping cranes in 1952 — there were only 23 alive in the world at that time. Now there’s over 400 because people have been working to preserve them and make a habitat for them.”

He’s not alone in his efforts to conserve area bird populations.

At Sycamore’s Oaken Acres, director and founder Kathy Stelford says bird lovers spend time nursing animals back to health.

“Probably 90-some percent of the animals that we get in here in total at Oaken Acres — and there are almost 900 hundred that we will be taking in this year — approximately 800 are because of human beings,” Stelford said.

Jennifer Kuroda is president of the Board of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society.

At a recent city council meeting, Kuroda joined Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara to declare a proclamation designating it the “Year of the Bird” in Rockford, one of a growing number of communities across the state participating in national efforts to conserve bird populations.

Two of Rockford’s most popular migratory birds are Gigi and Louise, a pair of peregrine falcons who found a home atop the Rockford Register Star building in downtown Rockford. The nesting pair produced several eggs this year and one successfully fledged, all under the close watch of a bird cam that got a lot of views from across the world.

“It’s very likely that Louise and Gigi will hang around in the area,” Kuroda explained. “They see that as a successful nest site for them.”

There was a contest to name the chick and the name chosen was “Hightower.”

Kuroda said she was thrilled that the young family attracted so much attention.

“It was a lot of fun to watch him grow.”

Kuroda says she has had a lifelong interest in birding, one that started with encouragement from her grandfather.

She hopes seeing the falcons up close gives people an appreciation for why the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is so important

Susan Stephens contributed to this report.

Photo: Susan Stephens

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