Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Don Paseka

Date of this Version



“2010–2011 Christmas Bird Counts” from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2011) 79(1).


Copyright 2011 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


Fourteen Christmas Bird Counts were held in Nebraska in the 2010–2011 season. The Branched Oak–Seward count was canceled due to weather, but in comparison to last year, the weather was generally dry, mild, and cooperative. Even though open water was limited, the species associated with water were well represented, resulting in the highest total number of species (149) ever, easily topping the previous high count of 138 in 2001. In all, 17 species set new high counts, 5 tied previous highs, and the amazing Brown-headed Nuthatches stayed in Lincoln and were counted for the first time in Nebraska.

Twelve species including Northern Harrier and Rough-legged Hawk were found on all 14 counts. However, 34 species were found on only one count, and of those, 18 were single individuals. Some of the more interesting "one-bird wonders" were Black-crowned Night-Heron at Grand Island, Northern Goshawk and Northern Saw-whet Owl at DeSoto-Boyer, Red-shouldered Hawk at Omaha, Brown Thrasher at Lake McConaughy and Yellow-headed Blackbird at Ames.

Twenty-nine species of Anseriformes were counted with record numbers for Cackling Goose (6,946), Canada Goose (81,450), Trumpeter Swan (49), Canvasback (150), and Long-tailed Duck (11). In addition, all three scoters were found as singles at Lake McConaughy.

For only the second time, all six grebe species were counted, with record numbers of Pied-billed Grebe (14) and Western Grebe (777). American Coot set a new high (1654), as did Wilson's Snipe (33). A single Greater Yellowlegs at Calamus marks only the third time that this species has been found on a Nebraska count.

While gull and raptor numbers were unremarkable, many other non-waterbirds had excellent counts. Rock Pigeons set a new high (6593), as did Eurasian Collared-Dove (998), Downy Woodpecker (587), and Hairy Woodpecker (120). The count week bird at DeSoto marks the first time Pileated Woodpecker was found in a circle other than Omaha. Some other woodland birds also did well, with new highs for Winter Wren (11), Hermit Thrush (11), and Yellow-rumped Warbler (42), along with Snow Bunting (62) out in the open areas. Only three times in the past has even a single Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch been counted, so the Scottsbluff count of 10 is noteworthy.

Among all these high counts, a few species had remarkably low counts. Sharp-tailed Grouse were missed entirely for the first time since 1991. The 35 Northern Bobwhites, found on only 5 counts, was the lowest total since 22 in 1998. The Black-billed Magpie count of 34 was the second lowest count ever; only the 1967 count of 16 was lower. Black-capped Chickadee numbers continue a slow rebound with this year's 1123 the highest count since 2002.