Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:2 (Fall 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


The abundance and habitat associations of overwintering birds in Platte River Valley of central Nebraska may influence their long-term survival. I observed a total of 51 species over a three-year period in shrub-grassland, forest, grassland, and cropland habitats during the winter. Grassland habitats had the lowest abundance of wintering birds, while abundances in shrub-grassland, forest, and cropland habitats were higher and similar. Species richness was highest in forests ( x= 2.97 species) and lowest in grasslands (x = 0.73 species) and croplands (x = 0.57 species). Overall, horned larks (Eremophila alpestris), American tree sparrows (Spizella arborea), black-capped chickadees (Parus atricapillus), dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), western meadowlarks (Sturnella neglects), and red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were the most abundant wintering birds in the Platte River Valley. American tree sparrows (34%) accounted for most of the birds in shrub-grasslands, while black-capped chickadees (18%), dark-eyed juncos (11%), and American tree sparrows (10%) accounted for most of the birds in forests. Grasslands were dominated by American tree sparrows (39%) and western meadowlarks (27%), and croplands were dominated by horned larks (43%), red-winged blackbirds (25%), and western meadowlarks (16%). The winter bird community in the Platte River Valley is dominated by woodland-associated species. Many of the woodland-associated species that overwinter in the Platte River Valley have likely benefited from the development of woodlands in the region.