Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Date of this Version



"Notes," from Nebraska Bird Review (March 1983) 51(1).


Copyright 1983, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


CATTLE VS. WATERFOWL. After three years of comparatively dry weather that kept our rainwater basins dry most of the time, in 1982 we had lots of rain and lots of water in our basins. The rains started the latter part of April and the waterfowl and shorebirds came in great numbers. Although the water levels raised with each rain, the vegetation grew fast enough to keep most of the water covered. This is where the nesting population of Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, etc., hide their nests, and it is hard to guess how many birds are nesting or where the nests are located.

One of these large basins lies between two of our farms, and I usually drive by it twice a day or so. It is divided into two parts that are fenced and both are used for pasture. Most of the water area is located on a neighbor's land. As usual, several cows and calves were placed in each pasture around 1 May. This is the procedure, and it works well in a normal year, but this was not a normal year, and as more and more rain fell it created a very unusual set of circumstances. The water level kept rising until in June the neighbor's pasture was all underwater except one small corner that was slightly higher ground, and this was where the cattle spent most of their time, except when foraging out into the water. By this time the water had covered most of the vegetation that hadn't already been grazed off. Daily I watched as the water level kept rising and the vegetation got thinner and thinner and it was easier to see the birds on their nests. Also, by this time the cattle were very hungry and were foraging in water more than belly deep, with their calves swimming to follow, even though supplemental feed was being provided for them.