Date of this Version
The Nebraska Bird Review Vol. 89 No. 1, pp. 2-17.
Thanks to the increasing numbers of observers taking time to report to eBird, social media, and NEBIRDS, this season, as is true of recent seasons, turned up some fascinating trends. The 96 cited observers, as well as several not cited, all contributed to the firmness of the database that allows better-supported conclusions to be drawn than from our past reliance all too often on anecdotal supposition.
Overwhelmingly clear this winter was the large number of taxonomically diverse species found north and west of expected winter ranges, and a surprising number of passerines reported for the first time in mid-winter. It is tempting to conclude that this phenomenon is a consequence of warmer temperatures positively affecting the food supply, although local fluctuations, especially related to water conditions, and the extremely cold late winter may have had effects not yet obvious.
The species north and west of expected winter ranges are too numerous to detail here; the species accounts provide the records. Notable, though, are increasing reports of wintering Greater White-fronted Goose, Trumpeter Swan, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Sandhill Crane, sparrows, and a few other passerines. Likely more transitory increases this winter were seen with Short-eared Owl, Pine Siskin, and White-winged Crossbill.
Quite amazing were the well-documented and unprecedented mid-winter occurrences of passerines. The list is long: American Pipit in Jan, Smith’s Longspur in late Dec, Lark Sparrow in mid-Dec, LeConte’s Sparrow in Dec-Jan, multiple Orange-crowned Warblers in Dec-Jan, Yellow-throated Warbler in Jan, and Rosebreasted Grosbeak in Jan.
There were numerous distributional and numerical observations of interest. The Pine Ridge hosted amazing numbers of pinewoods species, with record or nearrecord tallies of Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, and Dark-eyed (White-winged) Juncos. Gull numbers at McConaughy were also amazing; examples were the 8200 Ring-billed Gulls, 770 Herring Gulls, and 19 Lesser Blackbacked Gulls, all in mid-Dec. And noteworthy were several reports from the far east of Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, and Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco. The five Northern Goshawks was more than the usual one or two for winter.
Rare species were few, except for one long overdue: the first modern documented record of Common Raven. Also a first for the state was the documenting of Red Crossbill Type 10, in three locations across the state, no less. Curious, and welldocumented, was an extremely small white-winged gull at McConaughy ultimately deemed to be a Glaucous Gull. And for subspecies aficionados, a growing observer group in Nebraska, reports of Red-tailed Hawk subspecies or forms are shedding some light on their Nebraska distributions, interactions on the Pine Ridge between eastern and Rocky Mountain subspecies of White-breasted Nuthatch raised some questions, and fodder was provided for sorting out subspecies of Hermit Thrush occurring in western Nebraska