The beauty of birds can be seen in murals all around Chicago and the suburbs that celebrate their splendor and encourage awareness of their plight in the face of a worsening natural environment.
One of the best examples can be seen in Rogers Park at Greenleaf and Glenwood avenues, where North American species in danger as a result of climate change were painted in 2016 as part of the larger “Miles of Murals” project in collaboration with the National Audubon Society.
A plaque at the site reads: “Through these dynamic images we hope to bring new awareness to this environmental crisis. As of 2016, 314 of 588 bird species studied nationally have been identified as threatened by anticipated climate change due to compromised migratory patterns, reduced food supply and depreciated air quality.”
A half dozen artists painted the winged creatures on opposing sides of an L viaduct, with images of a tree swallow, Baltimore oriole, hooded merganser, sapsucker, red-breasted nuthatch and wood duck, among others. The key artists were Ruben Aguirre, Cheri Charlton, Andrea Jablonski, Tyrue “SLANG” Jones, Anthony Lewellen and Chris Silva.
“The project started in New York,” and “we just thought it was a great project and wanted to bring it to Chicago,” says Lea Pinsky, the artist who managed the project with her artist-husband Dustin Harris.
“It’s both a social message” that raises “awareness and inspires people to take action, small or large,” Pinsky says.
And it’s about “creating urban beautification . . . bringing the natural world into the dense urban environment.”
Also in 2016, Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs completed a towering South Loop mural titled “From Bloom to Doom” that features two kinds of birds whose numbers have plummeted: the yellow-headed blackbird and the red-headed woodpecker.
Farther west, near Chicago Avenue and Paulina Street, Justin Suarez, a Rochester, New York, artist, painted a mural in 2019 of a peregrine falcon. These birds like to nest on Chicago high-rises and dive bomb for meals.
Suarez volunteers at a sanctuary for birds of prey and gets to “experience them on a one-on-one level,” which helps his artwork.
“I paint all sorts of wildlife,” he says. “The birds of prey, I’m the most passionate about.”
Elsewhere around Chicago, other murals feature a robin, tropical birds, a peacock and a pelican.
Bird murals have the power to make “people pause and look at something beautiful and wild, but also part of our city,” especially with Chicago being a big migratory pathway, says Jennifer Hoffman, a Chicago mixed-media artist and bird enthusiast.
- Nelson’s sparrows are featured on this mural completed in 2019 on Montrose Avenue. Robert Herguth/Sun-Times
- Robins are part of this underpass mural on Elston Avenue in Forest Glen. Robert Herguth/Sun-Times
- A mural at 8949 S. Commercial Ave. Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- A peacock is part of this mural on the 600 block of South Wabash Avenue. Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals