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The Art of Migration

Birds, Insects, and the Changing Seasons in Chicagoland

Text by John Bates and James H. Boone
With a Foreword by John W. Fitzpatrick
Tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds weighing less than a nickel fly from the upper Midwest to Costa Rica every fall, crossing the six-hundred-mile Gulf of Mexico without a single stop. One of the many creatures that commute on the Mississippi Flyway as part of an annual migration, they pass along Chicago’s lakefront and through midwestern backyards on a path used by their species for millennia. This magnificent migrational dance takes place every year in Chicagoland, yet it is often missed by the region’s two-legged residents. The Art of Migration uncovers these extraordinary patterns that play out over the seasons. Readers are introduced to over two hundred of the birds and insects that traverse regions from the edge of Lake Superior to Lake Michigan and to the rivers that flow into the Mississippi.

As the only artist in residence at the Field Museum, Peggy Macnamara has a unique vantage point for studying these patterns and capturing their distinctive traits. Her magnificent watercolor illustrations capture flocks, movement, and species-specific details. The illustrations are accompanied by text from museum staff and include details such as natural histories, notable features for identification, behavior, and how species have adapted to environmental changes. The book follows a gentle seasonal sequence and includes chapters on studying migration, artist’s notes on illustrating wildlife, and tips on the best ways to watch for birds and insects in the Chicago area.

A perfect balance of science and art, The Art of Migration will prompt us to marvel anew at the remarkable spectacle going on around us.

See a gallery of paintings from the book.

224 pages | 54 color plates | 8 x 6 | © 2013

Art: Art--General Studies

Biological Sciences: Natural History

Chicago and Illinois


“Most insect and bird field guides require you to encounter a species first and then wade through pages, hoping to identify whatever you encountered. In The Art of Migration, you learn about the species and when you can expect to encounter them. With that information, you are inspired to step outside and locate that yellow-rumped warbler or dog-day cicada. It is refreshing reading something that’s science-based, beautiful, and fun.”

Tom Clay, Executive Director, Illinois Audubon Society

“Peggy Macnamara’s wonderful talent as an artist and deep understanding of science enable her to deftly capture the natural world through her watercolors. This is an extraordinary volume capping Peggy’s insight into migratory patterns, the Chicago natural area, and seasonal change. It should be required reading for everyone concerned about our natural habitat and about the miraculous combination of senses that enable bird migration.”

John W. McCarter Jr., president and CEO of the Field Museum

"The Art of Migration is no dry field guide or academic reference. Rather, it is a little treasure, beautiful to look at and enjoyable to read." 

Chicago Book Review

"Macnamara’s paintings blend scenes of birds and insects in flight with more representational images. The transparent nature of watercolors allows her to offer context for bird migration; a map of South America or the Chicago skyline may appear layered in the background. This is not a field guide but a conversational collection of impressions." 

Chicago Tribune

"In lovely, brightly colored watercolors in The Art of Migration, Macnamara reminds us that even in one of the most heavily developed areas of the United States, you can still find dog-day cicadas, banded woolly-bears, kinglets, nighthawks, Snowy Owls, and countless other beautiful and wild creatures. Thank goodness."


"Despite the Chicago-centric presentation, the birds and insects depicted could be found anywhere east of the Mississippi at the same latitude; there is much here to appeal to non-Chicagoans. This is just a pleasing book that couples luminously alive scenes of birds and insects through the journey of the seasons."

The Quarterly Review of Biology

"This is an exceptional book. Peggy Macnamara’s drawings are studies of the subject with the background often sketched in in an ethereal manner making the whole subject come alive—birds, butterflies, and other insects. . . . This work is certainly one that you will use and admire."

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Table of Contents

Foreword by John W. Fitzpatrick
Introduction by Peggy Macnamara

Cover Plate The V-Formation: Sandhill Cranes

Migration and Other Strategies to Survive the Seasons
Plate 1 Routes of Some Migratory Birds and Insects
Plate 2 Types of Flight
Plate 3 February Gull Frolic
Plate 4 Flocking: Starlings
Plate 5 Dragonfly Flight
Plate 6 Butterfly and Moth Flight

Plate 7 Herald of Spring: Red-winged Blackbird
Plate 8 Early Arrivals of Summer Residents: Sparrows
Plate 9 Dave’s Big Four
Plate 10 Spring Migrant Warblers in the Chicago Area
Plate 11 Spring Storm Aftermath
Plate 12 Ducks in Flight: Northern Shoveler
Plate 13 Spring Field Insects
Plate 14 Warblers That Nest in the Chicago Area
Plate 15 Shorebirds
Plate 16 Spring Wetland and Woodland Insects

Plate 17 Summer Marsh
Plate 18 Dragonflies
Plate 19 Summer Waterbirds
Plate 20 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Plate 21 Summer Evening Insects
Plate 22 Sphinx Moths
Plate 23 Red-tailed Hawk
Plate 24 Kathy’s Field
Plate 25 Field and Meadow Insects
Plate 26 Insects of Planted Fields
Plate 27 American Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird

Plate 28 Common Silhouettes around Chicago
Plate 29 Fall Insects
Plate 30 City Raptors
Plate 31 Timed Travelers: Green Darner and American Kestrel
Plate 32 Vireos from the Field Museum Terrace
Plate 33 Monarch Butterfly Migration in Mexico
Plate 34 Fall Migrant Warblers in the Chicago Area
Plate 35 October Lakefront
Plate 36 Kinglets
Plate 37 Woodpeckers
Plate 38 Fall and Winter Residents
Plate 39 American Goldfinch in Fall
Plate 40 Fall Game Birds

Plate 41 Winter Flock
Plate 42 Sacks, Silk, and Galls: Overwintering Insects
Plate 43 Three Chicago Owls with Blue Jays
Plate 44 Snow Birds and Insects
Plate 45 Snowy Owl
Plate 46 Winter Lakeshore
Plate 47 Household Insects

Studying Migration
Plate 48 Nine Days in May
Plate 49 Scenes from the Division of Birds Prep Lab, Field Museum
Plate 50 Preparing a Bird Study Skin
Plate 51 Monitoring Butterflies on Northerly Island

Watching Birds and Insects in Chicago
Further Reading
Contributor Biographies

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