Teeny hummingbirds among the spring visitors to this top recreation spot in West Alton

Mar. 29—Looking for bright spring birds? The Audubon Center at Riverlands in West Alton has free admission, walking paths, events, and many species this time of year.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been seen south of Illinois this year and are likely to move through the state in the coming weeks.

The local birding location has a facility where you can read species guides, ask staff questions, use telescopes to see distant birds, and attend avian activities.

Walking routes, some accessible to mobility aid users, are kilometers long at the center. Some trails close periodically, but April 16 will be open. Dogs are allowed in the central building, but not during live bird shows.

Audubon Center at Riverlands conservation science manager Tara Hohman advised new birders to investigate alongside a species expert.

"Birds can get really intimidating the more you learn, so I always tell people to start out simple," he remarked. "Start off with birds that you see regularly, and then you can jump off from there and try to explore a little bit more."

Field guides are another option. There are introductory bird color books, state-specific books, and backyard bird books. Merlin Bird ID and other free apps provide pocket-sized information.

See some springtime bird species at Audubon Center at Riverlands. Some seasonal birds are already visible, while others will appear in mid- or late-April. Hohman said local birders can expect peak migration around the first week of May, though it can vary.

Hummingbirds The ruby-throated hummingbird is common in the metro-east and St. Louis. Many red-and-green birds winter in Central America.

The American Bird Conservancy reports that ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh 0.1 to 0.2 ounces, less than a nickel. Their wingspan is 3.1–4.3 inches and their bodies are 2.8–3.5 inches.

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