Top 7 Beautiful Animals That Call Illinois Home

Illinois is a state known for its diverse landscapes, from the bustling city of Chicago to the sprawling prairies and forests. But did you know that the Prairie State is also home to some of the most stunning animals in the country?

Get ready as we count down the top 7 beautiful creatures that call Illinois their home!

1. Northern Cardinal

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The Northern Cardinal, with its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest, is a sight to behold. It’s no wonder this bird was chosen as the official state bird of Illinois in 1929 (ref). Cardinals are known for their melodic songs and can be found throughout the state, from suburban backyards to dense forests.

Did you know that both male and female cardinals sing? In fact, females can produce up to two dozen different tunes! Cardinals are also monogamous and will often touch beaks as a sign of affection during courtship.

So the next time you hear a cheerful “birdie, birdie, birdie,” look for a flash of red and enjoy the beauty of our state bird.

2. White-tailed Deer

deer garden
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The majestic white-tailed deer, with its reddish-brown coat and distinctive white tail, is a common sight across Illinois. But it wasn’t always this way. In the early 1900s, unregulated hunting and habitat loss nearly wiped out the state’s deer population (ref).

Thanks to conservation efforts and hunting regulations, the population has rebounded, and today, white-tailed deer are the official state animal of Illinois (ref).

White-tailed deer are known for their incredible speed and agility, able to run up to 30 miles per hour and leap up to 30 feet in a single bound. They are most active at dawn and dusk and can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests to fields to suburban neighborhoods. So keep your eyes peeled for these graceful creatures.

3. Monarch Butterfly

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The monarch butterfly, with its striking orange and black wings, is a beloved sight in Illinois. In fact, the monarch was designated as the official state insect in 1975 (ref). Each year, millions of monarchs migrate through Illinois on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Mexico, a journey that can span up to 3,000 miles (ref).

Unfortunately, monarch populations have declined significantly in recent years due to habitat loss and pesticide use. That’s why organizations like the Illinois Monarch Project (ref) are working to protect and restore monarch habitat across the state.

By planting native milkweed and other nectar plants butterflies love, you can help support these beautiful butterflies and ensure they continue to grace our skies for generations to come.

4. Red Fox

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The red fox, with its striking red coat and bushy tail, is a clever and adaptable animal that can be found throughout Illinois (ref). These small canids are most active at night and are known for their intelligence and cunning hunting skills.

Red foxes are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods, from small mammals and birds to fruits and insects. They are also skilled climbers and can often be found denning in hollow trees or abandoned buildings.

While they are generally shy and avoid humans, red foxes have been known to adapt to urban environments and can sometimes be spotted in city parks or suburban neighborhoods.

5. Great Egret

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The great egret, with its pure white plumage and long, graceful neck, is a stunning sight near Illinois wetlands and waterways. These large wading birds can stand up to 3 feet tall and have a wingspan of up to 5 feet (ref).

Great egrets are skilled hunters, using their long, sharp beaks to spear fish, frogs, and other aquatic prey. They are also known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve spreading their wings and swaying their necks in a graceful dance.

While they were once hunted for their feathers, great egrets are now protected by law (ref) and their populations have rebounded in recent years.

6. Eastern Bluebird

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The eastern bluebird, with its bright blue back and rusty orange breast, is a welcome sight in Illinois woodlands and orchards. These small thrushes are known for their sweet, warbling songs and their habit of nesting in tree cavities or man-made nest boxes.

Bluebirds are insectivores and play an important role in controlling pest populations. They are also fiercely territorial and will aggressively defend their nesting sites from other birds or predators.

Thanks to conservation efforts and the widespread use of nest boxes, eastern bluebird populations have rebounded in recent years after declining due to habitat loss and competition from non-native species.

7. Painted Turtle

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The painted turtle, with its colorful shell and distinctive red and yellow markings, is a common sight in Illinois ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. In fact, the painted turtle was designated as the official state reptile in 2004 (ref).

Painted turtles are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods, from aquatic plants and insects to small fish and carrion. They are also skilled swimmers and can often be seen basking on logs or rocks to regulate their body temperature. While they are generally docile and pose no threat to humans, painted turtles have sharp claws and a powerful bite, so it’s best to admire them from a distance.

Illinois Natural Wonders

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From the vibrant red of the Northern Cardinal to the striking orange and black of the monarch butterfly, Illinois is home to some of the most beautiful animals in the country. By protecting and preserving their habitats, we can ensure that these stunning creatures continue to thrive for generations to come.

So the next time you’re out exploring the natural wonders of Illinois, keep your eyes peeled for these 7 beautiful animals and marvel at the incredible diversity of life that calls our state home.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.