Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



The Nebraska Bird 126 Review Vol. 90 No. 4, pp. 126-150


Copyright © 2022 NOU


All in all, this was a fairly uneventful fall season, although even uneventful seasons have their share of oddities and variations from the norm. A noteworthy event was a fire that took out much of the brushy habitat in Carter Canyon, Scotts Bluff Co (see photo on following page). It will be interesting to read upcoming spring reports to see what effect the fire might have had on numbers of birds that frequent brushy areas, like towhees and buntings. Optimistically, fires have attracted rare woodpeckers, with first to arrive Black-backed, which would be a first documented Nebraska record, and typically after a few years, American Three-toed.

There was an amazing number of both early and late dates spread across the board, but with few if any patterns emerging. Among the 31 early dates, notable were a number of species that arrive in Nebraska from the north and west and usually winter, such as Surf Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Horned Grebe, Iceland Gull, Northern Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Shrike, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Fox Sparrow.

Late dates were even more ubiquitous, tallying about 82 species of all stripes. A few species groups showing lateness were apparent, though: cuckoos, nightjars, swifts, shorebirds, flycatchers (including 3rd latest on record Eastern Kingbird and 2nd latest Western Wood-Pewee), vireos, swallows (including record late Barn and Cliff Swallows), wrens, mimids, notably 10 species of sparrows (including record late Eastern Towhee in the northeast), Bobolink (check it out), and about seven warbler species including 4th latest on record Black-throated Green Warbler.

There were some startling high counts this fall; observers should at least make an attempt to estimate large numbers of birds in single locations using a method of counting by 5s, 10s, and 100s. Most mind-blowing were the record tallies: 409 Hooded Mergansers, 156 Wilson’s Snipe, 900 Lesser Yellowlegs, 13 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 55 Snowy Egrets, 10,900 Barn Swallows, and 68 Lincoln’s Sparrows. Other noteworthy counts were 288 Trumpeter Swans, 6000 Blue-winged Teal, 14,000 Green-winged Teal, 115 Red-necked Phalaropes, 12 Yellow-breasted Chat, 58 Baybreasted Warblers overall, and record for fall 133 Myrtle Warblers.

Distributionally misplaced were several western species east of expected ranges: Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous Hummingbirds, Burrowing Owl, Say’s Phoebe, Rock Wren, and Mountain Chickadee. Conversely, fewer eastern species were westerly, notably warblers: Northern Parula, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided in the Panhandle.

Of concern are species showing low numbers; Gray Partridge continues to be near lows for recent years, White-winged Junco was essentially absent this summer and fall on the Pine Ridge, and four finch species exhibited cyclical lows, at least through Nov: Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (none reported), Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin.

Important situations worthy of note included increasing numbers of Tundra Swan sightings in late fall, possible nesting Barn Owls in Lancaster Co, Mississippi Kites continuing in Scotts Bluff and apparently Adams Cos, the afore-mentioned scarcity of White-winged Juncos on the Pine Ridge, and an entertaining influx of Pinyon Jays, with singles as far east as Keith and Lincoln Cos.

There was a good supply of rarities, led of course by the first state record Limpkin that thrilled many in Sarpy Co, and a first state record Merlin subspecies Falco columbarius suckleyi. Top ten ranked state records were three Common Ravens, 7th and 8th Anna’s Hummingbirds, 7th and 8th White Ibis, oddly also 7th and 8th fall Cape May Warblers, 9th Brown Pelican and 11th fall Gray Flycatcher. Others of note were Red Phalarope, Steller’s Jay, a 2nd fall Panhandle Blue-winged Warbler, and generally absent for a few years Evening Grosbeak (1) and Bohemian Waxwing (4).

Finally, thanks to the almost 200 people who contributed to eBird, Facebook, and/or NEBIRDS and the Nebraska eBird reviewing team, whose decisions in large part determine what is included in these Seasonal Reports.