That's why an exhibit titled "Wings on the River" is a great complement to the traveling "Water|Ways" exhibit, which is on display at Four Rivers through March 11.
"Wings on the River" includes information on the types of birds that can be found in and around Four Rivers, which is located near where the Des Plaines, DuPage and Kankakee Rivers meet to form the Illinois River.
Last week, the bird exhibit received a special contribution from the N. W. Harris Learning Collection at The Field Museum when six birds preserved by a taxidermist arrived for display. The birds are male and female (drake and hen) representatives of the gadwall, bufflehead and common goldeneye duck species.
"These were rented to give people a 3-D look at the birds and to help them see the size of the birds," said Kelli Parke, an interpretive naturalist with the Forest Preserve. "For example, bufflehead is really small compared to the other two ducks."
The ducks are an important component of the river ecosystem, whether they are searching for food or become food themselves, according to information at the exhibit. They keep the population of aquatic insects and crustaceans in check in the rivers, and they provide food to predators including eagles, falcons, hawks, minks, foxes, rodents and snakes.
The three ducks included in the 3-D display arenít the only birds that flock to Four Rivers. Bald eagles, trumpeter swans, mergansers and others are often found flying or floating nearby. Four Rivers is a bird haven because itís surrounded by the 525-acre McKinley Woods preserve and the river water.
Parke said the "Wings on the River" exhibit grew out of the District's eagle watch programs, which were held at Four Rivers the past two years.
"When the bald eagles were not able to be seen, other birds were on the river and people wanted to know what they were and more about the water birds," she explained. "The major birds highlighted in the exhibit have all been seen from Four Rivers Environmental Education Center on the Des Plaines River."
Four Rivers is the perfect spot to search for birds in the winter, added Tina Riley, facility supervisor at the site.
"The Illinois River Grand Hall at Four Rivers provides a unique opportunity to view birds along the river from a warm, indoor vantage point," she said. "Connecting visitors to the birds that visit our waterways seemed like the perfect fit for a Forest Preserve District companion exhibit for the 'Water|Ways' exhibit."
"Water|Ways" examines the significance of water in the human experience. It is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street program and Illinois Humanities.