State of Nebraska

Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta ©Steve Berardi Website
Birding Nebraska

ebraska – where the American west begins.

Most people find little romance with a land that lacks large snow capped mountains and deep wooded forests. But what Nebraska does have is one of the most diverse, complex eco-systems that exists anywhere – prairie. Only remnants remain of the tall grass prairie that once covered eastern Nebraska. But as you travel west across this vast state you’ll encounter mixed grass prairie that gives way to the short grass prairies of the panhandle region. These native grasses are laced with a multitude of various wildflowers all of which evolved over 12,000 years ago out of an immense inland sea. This vegetation anchors the sand dunes, which cover 25% of Nebraska, to the earth. Scattered among the dunes are prairie potholes, wetlands and meandering streams and rivers. These wet areas attract a large variety of birds, many of which nest among the prairie grasses.

The population of the state decreases as you move westward. In the sandhills fifty miles and more separate many ranch homesteads and towns are sparse. It is truly a wide-open and wild land with a beauty seen nowhere else in the world.

The State of Nebraska is ranked seventh in bird species nationally. In 1995 Forbes magazine listed Grand Island, Nebraska as the number one birding spot in the world.

You will find both eastern and western bird species in Nebraska divided at the 100th meridian. There are also two major migratory flyways in the state, which carry a multitude of migratory birds to their summer nesting grounds. To the east is the Missouri River Valley that extends up the entire state. Indian Cave State Park, DeSoto Bend and many other areas on the river are excellent preserves for migrating and nesting birds.

The upper Missouri is as natural and untouched as the day Lewis and Clark first ventured through it. From Ponca State Park in North Eastern Nebraska up river to Fort Randall Dam it is pristine and an excellent birding area. Across northern Nebraska the Niobrara River cuts through the sandhills. From towering bluffs to rolling dunes it is joined by the Snake River to the west.

If you haven’t added enough birds to your life list yet, then head south from Valentine into the rugged sandhills dotted with marshes and wetlands. There you will be greeted with an abundance of both grassland and shore birds. Turn you sights south again to the Grand Island area along the great Platte River that traverses the state. This is the migratory flyway across the Great Plains, one of the most used routes for migrating birds. From the hundreds of eagles which congregate during January to the hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that crowd the waters in March and early April, you will not be disappointed. The annual crane migration is another one of a kind event on our planet and a must for all bird enthusiasts. If you stay near the central Platte River late in April you can witness one of the last wild flocks of endangered whooping cranes resting along the Platte River before continuing their journey north.

From the fresh water and saline wetlands, to the rivers and woodlands, and especially the prairie grasslands, Nebraska is a birders paradise.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 461

    (As at October 2018)

    State Bird - Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • Birds of Nebraska

    | (Their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence) | By Roger S Sharpe, W Ross Silcock & Joel G Jorgensen | University of Nebraska Press | 2001 | Hardback | 520 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9780803242890 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Nebraska

    | By Marc Parnell | Naturalist & Traveler Press | 2022 | Paperback | 280 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9781954228382 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Nebraska Field Guide

    | By Stan Tekiela | Adventure Publications | 2023 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 336 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781647553722 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Nebraska

    | By Paul A Johnsgard | Zea Books | 2018 | Paperback | 308 pages, 19 b/w illustrations and b/w maps | ISBN: 9781609621285 Buy this book from
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Nebraska Crane Festival

    Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival in Kearney, Nebraska commemorates the annual migration of tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes and millions of waterfowl through central Nebraska. The festival, which has been happening under different names for over 40 years, focuses on environment and wildlife education for its bird enthusiast attendees and also sponsors several excursions to explore the beautiful wilderness surrounding the town.
  • Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival

    Facebook Page
    The Nebraska-Prairie Chicken Festival aims to celebrate prairie grouse species, the grasslands they inhabit and the culture that surrounds them.
  • Sandhill Crane Migration event

    There are a variety of bird events throughout spring migration, all of which can be found in detail on the website
Museums & Universities
  • Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History

    The bird gallery displays over 200 resident and migratory birds seen in Nebraska and northern Kansas. It includes the largest diorama of whooping and sandhill cranes in the world
  • The Willetta Lueshen Ornithological Education Center (The Bird Library)

    Endowed by the estate of the late John and Willetta Lueshen, The Bird Library was organized June 19th, 1989, soon after the death of Willetta Lueshen. Willie was a friend and a teacher of the art of birding to those who gathered to join the club. Willetta was well known for for her interest in birds and nature. She taught classes on birds at North East Community College for many years and introduced hundreds to birding. The Willetta Lueshen Bird Library was founded in 1997 and is unique to Northeast Nebraska. John Lueshen of Wisner as a memorial to his late wife founded the Library
  • Audubon Society in Nebraska

    Offices & Chapters; Centers & Sanctuaries
  • Audubon Nebraska

    Audubon Nebraska’s mission is to conserve and restore Nebraska’s natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.
  • Audubon Society of Omaha

    Audubon Society Of Omaha Office, Heron Haven, 11809 Old Maple Road - (402)-445-4138. This list does not cover all parks and wildlife areas in the Omaha, Nebraska vicinity. It was designed by the Audubon Society of Omaha to help newcomers find some of the best birding areas with a minimum of fuss. The list is comprised of 31 of our favourite local birding areas
  • Big Bend Audubon Society

    P.O. Box 1575, Kearney, NE 68848
  • Bluebirds Across Nebraska

    Over the years, land has been cleared for housing and industrial developments, shopping malls, highways, and cropland; many old trees have been cut down for firewood. Wooden fence posts that provided nesting cavities have now been replaced with metal posts. With modernization, the supply of natural nesting cavities for bluebirds and other native cavity nesters has been greatly reduced
  • Crane Trust

    The Crane Trust, Inc. is a non-profit organization devoted to the protection and enhancement of habitats for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds along the Big Bend Region of the Platte River Valley in Nebraska….
  • Nature Conservancy in Nebraska

    The Nature Conservancy's mission is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. We’ve been working in Nebraska to do just that.
  • Nebraska Ornithologists Union Records Committee

    At the second annual meeting of the NOU, Dr. Robert H. Wolcott, one of our founders, presented a paper titled On Migration Records and On Our Nebraska Records (Proc. NOU 2:69, 1901); which included a plea for better documentation…
  • Nebraska Ornithologists' Union

    There are so many wonderful birds and bird habitats in Nebraska that a single lifetime isn't nearly long enough to enjoy them all. Nebraska’s Platte Valley annually hosts the world's largest crane concentration, and also is the most frequent stopover-point for migrating Whooping Cranes. Our Sandhills region of grassy dunes and wetlands hosts many endemic prairie birds, including both Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse.
  • Nebraska Partnership for All-Bird Conservation

    Partners representing conservation, agriculture, business, and academia are working together to create and implement a shared vision for Nebraska bird conservation.
  • Wachiska Audubon Society

    For 30 years Wachiska Audubon has accomplished a lot on behalf of birds, wildlife habitat preservation, responsible urban development and support of nature education for children and adults. Wachiska Audubon is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society, serving 17 Southeast Nebraska Counties. It is one of five such chapters in Nebraska…
  • Wildcat Audubon

    On February 22, 1952, a small group of people who had a great deal of curiosity about the natural world, especially birds, met in Scottsbluff. This was the first meeting of the Nature Lovers' Club. Winter meetings were held in homes of members and programs were given by members or special guests about any phase of nature or conservation...

Abbreviations Key

  • BS IBA Rowe Sanctuary

    InformationSatellite View
    Rowe Sanctuary has been owned and managed by the National Audubon Society since 1974. Located along the Platte River in southcentral Nebraska, the 1,447-acre sanctuary contains 2.5 miles of river channel, wet meadows, and some agricultural fields. Public hiking trails wind through riparian areas and along the banks of the Platte. Every year from mid-February to early April, the Platte River in central Nebraska is the destination for more than 500,000 Sandhill Cranes during their northward migration, roughly 80 percent of the world's population. At the height of the migration in late March, Rowe Sanctuary can host as many as 70,000 cranes nightly. This is one of the highest concentrations of cranes in the world.
  • BS The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Santuary

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Lesser Sandhill Cranes converge upon our area every spring. Sanctuary staff members and volunteers conduct blind trips every year during March and early April. The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center, set along the beautiful Platte River, is the second largest straw bale constructed building in the United States. This education/visitor center not only provides office space for the staff, but also has a classroom/conference room, educational displays, a viewing area of the river and much more. This multi-purpose building is available for rent for business meetings or special events…
  • IBA Missouri National Recreational River

    InformationSatellite View
    This IBA is a 59-mile long section of the Missouri River stretching from Gavins Point Dam on the eastern edge of Lewis and Clark Lake to Ponca, Nebraska. Covering over 33,000 acres, this section -- with its wide, meandering channel, shifting sandbars, and secondary channels -- contains some of the last forested floodplain and floodplain wetland habitats on the river. The Nebraska side of the river ranges from nearly level floodplain to steep, tree-covered bluffs. Riverbanks vary from flat, sandy beaches to vertical faces 10 to 15 feet high. This landscape has backwater marshes, open sandbars, and cottonwood forests that provide habitat for wildlife.
  • IBA North Platte River Valley

    InformationSatellite View
    The North Platte River Valley (NPRV) in southwest Nebraska encompasses Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area (LM), Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area (LO), and Cedar Point Biological Station (CP). There are several potential IBAs in the vicinity, including Ash Hollow State Historical Park and Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area. The large water areas and accompanying habitat at these two recreation sites have pushed the bird count to 313 species. The lakes lie near the middle of the east/west faunal transition zone in the Great Plains. Various riparian forests of nearby rivers provide movement corridors for both eastern and western species.
  • NC Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    This is an information blog where we report on happenings and events related to the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center. We are located in Central Nebraska on the Platte River and provide a place where people can connect to the river and the prairie environment. We offer sandhill crane viewing tours and wildlife viewing information year round and during Nebraska's spring migration.
  • NC Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Audubon established Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center in 1998 on the site of the former O’Brien ranch approximately 20 minutes southwest of Lincoln, Nebraska. This now 808-acre tallgrass prairie nature preserve offers over three miles of walking trails, wetlands, wildflowers and grasses. In its midst more than 210 species of birds, 370 species of plants, and other wildlife dwell side-by-side with historic 19th-century wagon ruts in the lovely prairie vista….
  • Nebraska Birding Trails

    InformationSatellite View
    Ask almost any American birder to associate Nebraska with a single bird species, and the likely response will be "cranes!" It is true that Nebraska’s Platte Valley annually hosts the largest concentration of sandhill cranes occurring anywhere in the world, a half-million or so, and is the most often used stopover point for whooping cranes between their wintering and breeding grounds…
  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    The mission of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is stewardship of the state's fish, wildlife, park, and outdoor recreation resources in the best long-term interests of the people and those resources.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • ABA Birding News - Nebraska

    ABA's birding news by date
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [04 April] - Michel Watelet - California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada

    PDF Report
    Annotated list
  • 2018 [03 March] - Rick Wright

    PDF Report
    Birders are often accused of being obsessed with the singular, the unusual, the rare. Our short March week in Nebraska offered us plenty of that. Most notable, perhaps, was an early-arriving Whooping Crane, which we were fortunate enough to see not once but twice, first on a field with its gray cousins on our arrival along the central Platte River on the second day of the tour, and then, thanks to Danny’s eagle eye, at roost on our last day among the tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes in the shallows of the river just upstream from the famous Alda Bridge.
  • 2020 [03 March] - Ed Pembleton - Platte River Cranes

    PDF Report
    At the nature center feeders including a White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Black-capped Chickadee drew our attention. When we entered the center, Kevin promptly encouraged us to look out the south window where a pair of Ring-necked Pheasants was sparing along the trail. Apparently they were challenging one another for dominance as part of their breeding ritual.
  • 2022 [03 March] - Dave Kreuper

    PDF Report
    ...We scored with NINE Short-eared Owls flying around us for 20 minutes, and then several Rough-legged Hawks and one obliging Ferruginous Hawk. To round out the raptor spectacle we also found a Merlin, America’s second smallest falcon species...
  • 2023 [03 March] - Kent Skaggs

    PDF Report
    ...While Sandhill Cranes are the primary focus of this tour, there are plenty of other bird species that can be seen when the cranes stage along the Platte River during the month of March. South of the Platte River lies the Rainwater Basin, which is characterized by shallow playa wetlands that become wet when there is adequate snow melt and spring rains. These seasonal wetlands can host millions of waterfowl during the spring migration, including three to six million Snow Geese (large numbers of Ross’s Geese migrate with the Snow Geese as well), four million Mallards, 900,000 Greater White-fronted Geese and 900,000 Northern Pintail. There are at least an additional 20 species of waterfowl that can be seen in southcentral Nebraska during March...
Places to Stay
  • Shepherd's Inn B&B

    Enjoy a peaceful retreat to the country on this rural Nebraska farmstead. Watch the golden sun sink into the hills or gaze into the star-studded heavens without the glare of city lights. Catch the early-morning rays, listen to the birds singing or spend a lazy afternoon swinging on the lawn swing as you soak in the fresh country air…
  • Whispering Pines B&B

    There is lots of space for strolling. If you`re a bird watcher, there are many around. The butterfly bushes attract many species and deer may be glimpsed in the evening as they browse…
Other Links
  • Chicken Dance Trail

    The idea of a Web site that would encourage birders from all over the world to discover the unique birding habitats in south central Nebraska came easily to Angus Garey and Don Brockmeier. Both avid birders, they knew that Nebraska has something special to offer both the serious and the not
  • Nebraska Bird Library

    This website is devoted to helping Nebraskans and visitors identify and learn about the over 400 species of birds which can be found in our state.
  • Nebraska Metro Birding

    After birding the Omaha metro area for some 30 years, I find I can locate a good variety of birds most any time of the year. Spring and fall are the peak seasons for migrating passerines - warblers, vireos, flycatchers and tanagers - through the wooded Missouri River valley. From north to south, good locations are places like Boyer Chute, Neale Woods, Hummel and Dodge Park, Fontenelle Forest and Schilling WMA. The Lincoln metro area has some excellent locations for waterfowl and gull migration around the numerous lakes of Lancaster County - Branched Oak Lake, Pawnee Lake and Holmes Lake to name a few. In addition, the Spring Creek Prairie offers good possibilities of seeing such prairie birds as Henslow's Sparrow, Dickcissel and Greater Prairie Chickens…
  • Project BEAK

    Project BEAK is an interactive, web-based curriculum that contains scientifically accurate information about avian conservation, avian form, function and other adaptations that help birds survive, Nebraska’s unique avian biodiversity, Nebraska’s threatened and endangered birds, plus video clips, interactive games, quizzes and diagrams, additional resources and links, and classroom lesson plans.
  • Rainwater Basin

    In the wetlands of the Rainwater Basin and across Nebraska’s mixed-grass prairies, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture partners achieve habitat conservation through cooperation and sound science. Landowners, conservation organizations and government agencies work together through Joint Venture projects and programs to provide habitat for millions of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife in this highly productive agricultural landscape.
  • Scotts Bluff County Birding

    Western Nebraska is a great place to bird. Where east meets west, we get many ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ bird species here.
  • Wild Bird Habitat Store

    The Wild Bird Habitat Store opened its doors on October 1st, 1993 in Lincoln, Nebraska by Dave Titterington. The vision statement of WBH at that time is the same belief that remains today - The Wild Bird Habitat Store is committed to providing information so people will have a successful and rewarding backyard bird feeding program that will last a lifetime, and be expanded to future generations. WBHs belief is that when people successfully attract wildlife to their backyards, it will generate awareness for other wildlife beyond the limits of their yards, state lines, and national borders. WBHs primary interest is the conservation of nature. We strive to accomplish this through offering a variety of backyard wildlife products at competitive prices, support services on the use of those products, and education of our natural communities.
  • James E Ducey - Wildbirds Broadcasting

    News about wildbird conservation, management, status and related miscellany…

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