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State of Kansas

Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta ©Rick Bohn - Wikimedia Commons

Kansas is located in the central part of the contiguous 48 states. There have been 475 species recorded in the state. Kansas slopes from an elevation of about 600 feet in the southeast to an altitude of 4000+ in the extreme northwestern part. Although the northwest is at a higher elevation, it is referred to as the high plains and can appear to be quite flat. Because of its central location, Kansas has western species, northern species in winter, eastern species breeding and in migration, and birds that stray northward from the Gulf coast in the spring and fall such as Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, and Magnificent Frigatebird.

Kansas has the largest extant prairie in the United States. The Flint Hills are about 200 miles north and south and up to 50 miles wide. Much of the Flint Hills are still in native grasses. The Konza Prairie Preserve near Manhattan is a prime example. Certain areas of the Konza provide excellent habitat for Henslow's Sparrow. You should contact the proper authorities before birding this area. The Upland Sandpiper is a common breeding bird, as is the Greater Prairie Chicken.

The eastern one third of the state is made up of rolling hills with patches of forest dotted around the area. The extreme Southeastern part is Ozarkian with the associated birds such as Yellow-throated Warbler, Cerulean Warbler and other eastern forest birds. The Northeastern portion is also forested along the Missouri River and many of the eastern warblers are found in migration and breeding. There have been 37 species of warblers recorded.

Many large reservoirs are found in the eastern and central part of Kansas and are a major attraction for waterfowl and gulls. With the building of the reservoirs, many species have become regular migrants to the state such as Bonaparte's Gull, Thayer's Gull, and the occasional Sabine's Gull. There have been 26 species of larids recorded and one alcid.

Two of the major birding areas in the central part of Kansas are Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge; both are designated Wetlands of International Importance by RAMSAR. These two major central Kansas wetlands attract Whooping Cranes making these two marshes major stopovers during the fall migration. In addition to the Whooping Cranes, up to 200,000 Sandhill Cranes have been recorded in the fall. Cheyenne Bottoms was designated a wetland of international importance because of the numbers of shorebirds that utilize the area in migration. It is estimated that some shorebirds such as the White-rumped Sandpiper may have 90% of the world's population migrating through the area. Because of the vast salt beds that underlie central Kansas, many of the marshes are brackish. Coastal species that nest here in small numbers are Tricolored Heron and Mottled Duck. Neotropical Cormorants are nesting at Quivira and have bred at Cheyenne Bottom. Western Grebes have recently started nesting at Cheyenne Bottoms. At any one time in May, there can be thousands of shorebird present at either of these two marshes. Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets nest in the marshes along with White-faced Ibis. There have been 43 species of shorebirds recorded.

Most of the short grass prairie in the west has been ploughed and birding can be quite dismal in the western half. However, there are oases of lakes and grasslands that can be excellent for birds. Scott County State Lake is one of those areas. Also cities in the area act as attractants to species because of the trees and available water. Several species of hummingbirds have been recorded in Garden City. Kansas has had 11 species of hummingbirds recorded.

The Cimarron National Grasslands in extreme Southwestern Kansas is a Mecca for birdwatchers. Many of the western species have been found only in this area. It is approximately 60 airline miles from the Black Mesa of Colorado and Oklahoma and many of the birds from that area periodically invade this corner of the state such as Bushtit, Steller's Jay, Scrub Jay, Canyon Towhee, Sage Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Sage Thrasher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and many of the western flycatchers. Mountain Plovers nest here along with Long-billed Curlew. Lesser Prairie-Chickens also nest in the Cimarron National Grasslands and blinds have been set up for photography and observation of these increasingly uncommon species. McCown Longspur, Lapland Longspur, and Chestnut-collared Longspur can be found in winter and in migration.

One other area that has recently caught the attention of birdwatchers is the Red Hills of south-central Kansas in Barber and Comanche Counties. There are large areas of short-grass prairie that have mesas and lot of valleys with red cedar. Most winters you can find Mountain Bluebirds wintering. In the summer you might find nesting Rufous-crowned Sparrows if you find the right canyon. Lesser Prarie-Chickens are found in this area. This was the last strong hold of the Black-capped Vireo in Kansas and it is possible they may show up here again.

One word of caution when birding in Kansas. This state has the least amount of public land of any state in the United States. Most of the places you will bird away from refuges and reservoirs are private property. Most farmers and ranchers welcome birders on their land if you ask for permission first. If you don't ask, you will be asked to leave. Fortunately, Kansas has more roads than most states and birding from the roads isn't bad. However, even birding along remote roads may bring an inquiry as to what you are doing. If you are polite and explain what you are doing, most landowners will become friendly and might even show you some areas on their property that provides excellent birding.

Contributor

Max C. Thompson

Professor Emeritus & Author

Dept. of Biology, Southwestern College, Winfield, KS

maxt@cox.net

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 479

As at April 2015

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Guide to Bird Finding in Kansas and Western Missouri

John L. Zimmerman, Sebastian T. Patti, Robert M. Mengel (Illustrator)Hardcover - 244 pages (April 1988) University Press of Kansas

ISBN: 0700603654

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Kansas

[Hardcover] by Max C. Thompson (Author), Charles A. Ely (Author), Bob Gress (Author), Chuck Otte (Author), Sebastian T. Patti (Author) - University Press of Kansas 2011

ISBN: 9780700617821

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Compact Guide to Kansas Birds

Ted Cable and Gregory Kennedy Lone Pine Publishing due March 2007

ISBN: 9789768200259

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas

by William H. Busby, John L. Zimmerman Univ Pr of Kansas; 2001

ISBN: 0700610553

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta

Forums & Mailing Lists

KSBIRD-L

Mailing List

List contact: KSBIRD-L-request@LISTSERV.KSU.EDU

To subscribe to list: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.KSU.EDU

SUBSCRIBE KSBIRD-L

Birds & Their Habitats in Kansas

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2013 [04 April] - Mike Watson - Colorado & Kansas

Report PDF

Our 2013 ‘Ultimate Grousequest’ to the Rocky Mountains and High Plains of Colorado (and neighbouring Kansas) was another success with our fifth clean sweep in a row of the ‘magnificent seven’: the pure white White-tailed Ptarmigan (we did it again!); the extrovert Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens; the super-bold Dusky Grouse; foot-stomping Sharp-tailed Grouse and the two big boomers – Gunnison’s and Sage Grouse. This was some achievement (but also a little lucky) in the worst spring weather we have experienced on this tour so far and at the same time we also reached a new Birdquest highest bird species total of 180 (ABA), or, depending on taxonomy, as many as 190 bird taxa.

2013 [06 June] - Petri Hottola

Report PDF

…A circle trip to a number of birding sites in Utah, Colorado and Kansas followed, before a return in Denver on the 28th. The idea was to look for eight target species/subspecies: White-tailed Ptarmigan, Greater Sage Grouse, Gunnison’s Sage Grouse, Dusky Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Rosy-Finch and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. For Greater Prairie-Chicken there was not enough time, June not being the easiest season for neither this species nor for some of the listed ones. I did, however, eventually score with all the eight, some more easily than some others…

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Country Gardens B&B

Accommodation

A charming bed and breakfast perfect for a romantic get-a-way or just playing hooky from too much stress. We are located in the heart of farming country with lots of privacy and we are a perfect location the honeymoon couples. There are flower gardens surrounding the house and we have several locations, including a screened proch, from which many birds can be observed. Breakfast is served on the porch, weather permitting…

Grove House B&B

Accommodation

Grove House guests will appreciate the private suites, which include a cozy Victorian parlor, bedroom, and bath. An outside patio provides a quiet setting for watching the wildlife and birds in the trees, and relaxingin the cool breeze…

Organisations

Audubon of Kansas

Website

The mission of Audubon of Kansas includes promoting the enjoyment, understanding, protection, and restoration of natural ecosystems. We seek to establish a culture of conservation and an environmental ethic…

Audubon Society in Kansas

Website

Searchable database…

Burroughs Audubon Society

Website

Whether you're a member of Burroughs or just interested in birds and nature, feel free to browse our site and take advantage of it as a resource. You'll find information about birdwatching opportunities in the Kansas City area, including rare bird sightings, hotspots, field trips and bird walks…

Jayhawk Audubon Society

Website

We hope you'll join us! You'll find a variety of resources and information here on the site which let's you know what we're up to and how you can get involved. Check out the quick links below or explore the drop-down menus above and see all we have to offer. Hope to see you soon! - See more at: http://www.jayhawkaudubon.org/#sthash.RV9errXt.dpuf

Kansas Bird Records Committee

Website

The Kansas Bird Records Committee (KBRC) reviews records of rare bird sightings in the state. This committee of the KOS is composed of 7 members and 2 alternates, appointed for three year terms. A list of the current KBRC members can be found here; please feel free to contact any of the members if you have questions about the committee or its activities.

Kansas Ornithological Society

Website

We say this first because we know the word ornithological sounds pretty formidable, and we don't want it to scare anyone off before they see what a fun group we really are. True, the name does fit. Ornithology means the study of birds, and that's what we're all about. And we do count among our members some of the world's top professional ornithologists and finest birders - as well as rank beginners, school children, and everything in between. All the better, we believe, to allow the unique mix of knowledge and enthusiasm that makes our way of studying birds so rewarding…

Leavenworth Audubon Society

1007 N 2nd St, Lansing, KS 66043, 913-727-3871 - Matthew Nowak, President

Nature Conservancy in Kansas

Website

Another new and nicely presented NC website: Here you'll find information on the many ways we're working with communities, businesses and people like you to protect Kansas' amazing diversity of native plants, wildlife and natural landscapes…

Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society

Website

Publishing the prairie Falcon as its newsletter this very active site has lots of links, local information etc…

Smoky Hills Audubon Society

Website

Smoky Hills Audubon Society was established in 1976. Programs are on the 3rd Thursday of each month and are generally held at Carver Center, 315 2nd Street, Salina KS at 7:00 pm. Board meetings are on the first Thursday of the month at 7 pm, at Lakewood Lodge, Salina KS More details: Contact Neva Heikes at 785-452-9305 or Harold Lear at 785- 823-2366.

Southeast Kansas Audubon Society

Website

1322 S. Edith, Chanute, KS 66720, 620-431-1723 - Mary Haynes, President

Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society

Website

The mission of Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society is - to promote educational forums that emphasize ecological relationships in the natural world, with a primary interest in birds and their habitat; to be an advocate for initiatives that protect and enhance natural ecosystems; and, with knowledge, energy, and, cooperation - develop sanctuaries that restore natural habitats.

Sutton Avian Research Centre

Website

Finding cooperative conservation solutions for birds and the natural world through science and education.

Topeka Audubon Society

Website

Since 1943 we have served the Topeka, Kansas community by providing nature education, outdoor recreation, and environmental advocacy. This year we will offer 7 informative programs, as well as 2 field trips per month to destinations near and far. We participate in the Christmas Bird Count in December, and the North American Migration Bird Count in May. Our newsletter is published 10 times a year. We hold bird seed sales in October and January to raise funds for our activities.

University of Kansas Field Station

Website

The University of Kansas Field Station has served a prominent role in environmental affairs for more than 50 years…

Wichita Audubon Society

Website

The Wichita Audubon Society is an association of more than 1200 members who have been enjoying nature, promoting conservation, and supporting nature education since 1954. Our major education and conservation project for more than 25 years has been the development of Chaplin Nature Center. This 230 acre preserve near Arkansas City features a Visitor`s Center staffed by a full time naturalist. The naturalist conducts programs for school classes from across south central Kansas, as well as civic organizations, youth groups, and the general public. The trails through the woods and prairies, leading to the sandbars of the Arkansas river, are open to the public from sunrise to sunset year round. Our members support the Chaplin Nature Center with donations of money and time, including fund-raising, maintenance and construction projects, and staffing the Visitor`s Center.

Festivals

Wings & Wetlands Festival

Website

The Kansas Wetlands Education Center, along with Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism, The Nature Conservancy, and the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, hosts this 2-day birding festival every other year on odd numbered years. For more information, call 1-877-243-9268.…

Museums

Natural History Museum - University of Kansas

http://www.nhm.ku.edu/birds

The home page for the Division of Ornithology at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum…

Reserves

Chaplin Nature Centre

Webpage

Satellite View

Chaplin Nature Center is owned and operated by the Wichita Audubon Society…

Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands Project

Webpage

Satellite View

The largest interior marsh in the United States, Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important shorebird migration stopover points in the Western Hemisphere. More than half of all shorebirds that migrate east of the Rockies pass through this 40,000-acre lowland, including 90% of North America's population of Wilson's phalarope, long-billed dowitcher, white-rumped sandpiper, Baird's sandpiper, and stilt sandpiper…

Flint Hills NWR

Webpage

Satellite View

Established in 1966, the refuge is managed primarily for migratory waterfowl. Intensive use by ducks and geese occurs during the spring and fall migration. Farmlands are managed on a share basis with area farmers with the refuge share providing food for migrating waterfowl and resident wildlife. Numerous ponds and a system of shallow marshes provide additional waterfowl habitat. Waterfowl and bald eagle management requires that portions of the refuge be closed and that public access be restricted during periods of intensive waterfowl use…

Kansas State Parks

Website

Comprehensive interactive list…

Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC)

Website

Satellite View

The Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) is a 11,246 square feet facility located 10 miles northeast of the intersection of US 281 and US 56/156 in Great Bend at 592 NE 156 Highway, Great Bend, KS 67530. KWEC is a branch of Sternberg Museum of Natural History and, therefore, a unit of Fort Hays State University (FHSU)…

Meade State Park

Webpage

Satellite View

Nature trails offer visitors an up close look at the shortgrass prairie ecosystem. Utility and primitive camping, day use areas, swimming beach, and boating and fishing access make this a popular destination. Campgrounds provide 42 water/electric utility sites and 150 primitive campsites…

Quivira NWR

Webpage

Satellite View

For untold years, the Big and Little Salt Marshes have attracted thousands of migratory waterfowl, providing them with food, cover and a place to rest during exhausting flights between breeding and wintering areas. Indians and early settlers hunted the waterfowl in these marshes and shortly after the turn of the century, commercial hunting provided wagonloads of waterfowl to Kansas City restaurants and other eastern points.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region of Kansas was established on November 12, 1996. Since this is a new park, this homepage is new, too, and still under construction. Visit our expanded pages to learn more about this new national preserve.

Other Links

Wild Bird Watching

Website

Birdwatching information about the nesting, mating, and feeding habits of common North American backyard birds…

Photographers & Artists

Artist - Anthony Galván III

Gallery

I began drawing wildlife while in high school. In 1963 my family moved to Denver, CO. I had been sketching hot rods up to that time and it was during a two week we`ll leave the motel when we find a place period that I found I enjoyed drawing birds…

Photographer - Wild Love Photography

Gallery

Photography blog celebrating the birds of Northeast Kansas…