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Bird Watching

A guide to bird watching on campus and beyond

Getting Started

Did you know that the Evanston campus is considered a "hot spot" for bird watching, especially in the Spring and Fall seasons as millions of birds migrate along the Mississippi Flyway. According to, a community science website and app dedicated to bird watching and ornithology, over 280 species of birds have been spotted on campus! To encourage community connection with campus nature, Northwestern University Libraries and sustainNU have created this guide to bird watching and offer bird watching kits that students, faculty, and staff and can borrow for free (see below). To get started, please read this page carefully and explore the other pages of this guide to help you learn more about birds and to get involved on campus and beyond!

Bird Watching Kits

There are four (4) bird watching kits available to be checked out from Circulation at Main Library. Each bird watching kit includes high-quality binoculars, neck strap, lens cloth, instruction manual, and a QR code that links to this guide. To check out a bird watching kit either visit Circulation on the first floor of Main Library or request one on NUsearch.

If you're new to bird watching, read this short article from Audubon, "How to Get Started Birding."

Using Binoculars

Using binoculars for the first time can take some getting used to, but here are some helpful steps for getting started.

  1. Be sure to wear around your neck! This will insure the safety of the binoculars for future use.
  2. Fit the binoculars to your eyes by looking through them and aligning each scope with your hands until you're seeing a single circle.
  3. Use the toggle wheel in the middle of the binocular to focus.
  4. When you spot a bird, look at it first with your eyes and then bring the binoculars up to your eyes.
  5. Look everywhere! While many species of birds like being high up in trees, others like to hop under bushes or walk the shores of the lake.
  6. Before returning the bird watching kit, please use the cloth to clean the lenses.

Binoculars are for bird and wildlife watching only (though looking at the stars and moon with them is cool too!).

Campus Hot Spots

Helping Injured Birds

While there are many wonderful spaces to see birds on campus, the glass buildings can be a hazard for birds. Indeed, it is estimated that 1 billion birds die from window strikes globally each year. If you encounter an injured bird, please contact the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and follow these helpful steps.