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.

Contributors
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 461

    (As at October 2018)

    State Bird - Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta

Checklist

  • 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: 0803242891 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Rocky Mountain

    (With Particular Reference to National Parks in the Northern Rocky Mountain Range) | By Paul A Johnsgard | University of Nebraska Press | 1992 | Paperback | 504 pages, 42 colour photos, 15 maps | ISBN: 0803275749 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Nebraska Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species

    By James R Kavanagh & Raymond Leung | Waterford Press | 2002 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 1583551859 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas

    By Wayne J Mollhoff | Nebraska Ornithologists' Union | 2016 | Paperback | 320 pages, distribution maps | ISBN: #232255 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Audubon's Nebraska Crane Festival

    Webpage
    Audubon's Nebraska Crane Festival brings together hundreds of crane lovers from around the country to Kearney, Nebraska, to interact with a wide range of environmental speakers, take part in incredible birding trips, and, best of all, experience the world's largest gathering of Sandhill Cranes!
  • Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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
Organisations
  • Audubon Society in Nebraska

    Website
    Offices & Chapters; Centers & Sanctuaries
  • Audubon Nebraska

    Webpage
    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

    Website
    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

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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Webpage
    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 Bird Partnership

    Webpage
    Partners representing conservation, agriculture, business, and academia are working together to create and implement a shared vision for Nebraska bird conservation.
  • Nebraska Ornithologists Union Records Committee

    Webpage
    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

    Website
    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.
  • Wachiska Audubon Society

    Website
    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

    Website
    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...
Reserves

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

    WebsiteSatellite 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.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • ABA Birding News - Nebraska

    Sightings
    ABA's birding news by date
Trip Reports


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

  • 2009 [06 June] - Alex Lamoreaux

    Report
    …At the park along the Platte river north of Rowe Sanctuary at the intersection of Lowell Road (10C) and Elm Island Road highlights included cliff swallow, various sandpiper species, willow flycatcher, and one of the best birds of the trip a rose-breasted grosbeak X black-headed grosbeak hybrid which I was able to get great photos of. This bird was calling from the top of a willow tree at the western side of the little park, farthest from the bridge that you can get on the trails. I wanted to see if his mate would show up to see if it was a rose-breasted or black-headed but no luck….
  • 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.
Places to Stay


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

  • Shepherd's Inn B&B

    Accommodation
    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

    Accommodation
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    I have been birding since 1994 but have been interested in birds all my life. I joined the local Audubon group in 1996 and have learned so much about birds from taking fieldtrips with longtime birders. This has to be the best way to learn about birds. I enjoy taking people birding to our favorite places around Scottsbluff so if you are in the area or planning a trip to western Nebraska contact me
  • Wild Bird Habitat Store

    Website
    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.
Blogs
  • James E Ducey - Wildbirds Broadcasting

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

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