Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Mossman & Brogie, "Breeding Status of Selected Bird Species in the Niobrara Valley Preserve Area, Nebraska," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 1983) 51(2): 52-62.


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



The Niobrara Valley Preserve is located in north-central Nebraska and includes a variety of relatively undisturbed grassland, woodland, and wetland habitats. The diversity of habitats, in conjunction with the area's central geographic location near the 100th meridian, results in a diverse avifauna with many species and subspecies occurring at or near the western, eastern, southern, or northern edge of their breeding ranges. Several pairs of sibling species and subspecies are found here within their narrow band of sympatry. The breeding list of the Preserve and environs includes at least 105 species (Brogie and Mossman 1983), several of which are rare or declining in Nebraska or nationwide.

This paper describes the evidence of breeding for those species and subspecies considered significant on the basis of their rarity, critical population status, or marginal geographic occurrence. A few other species are discussed that are conspicuous in their absence or scarcity. Unless otherwise indicated, information on statewide and regional distribution and abundance is from Johnsgard (1979a, 1979b, 1980). The designations of statewide endangered, threatened, or special concern status are from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (1977) and Ross Lock (Neb. Game and Parks Comm., pers. comm. 1982). Additional information on national and regional status is indicated by reference to the American Birds Blue List for 1982 (Tate and Tate 1982).


The study area includes the 22,000 ha Niobrara Valley Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, and an additional 20,000 ha of adjacent, privately owned land. The area extends 50 km along the Niobrara River in Cherry, Brown, and Keya Paha counties. Study area boundaries are described in Brogie and Mossman (1983). The river valley contains exposed sandbars, floodplain forest dominated by cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and green ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica), scattered oxbow marshes with species such as cattail (Typha latijolia), bulrush (Scirpus actus), and sandbar willow (Salix discolor), and eastern deciduous forest dominated by bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), basswood (Tilia americana), green ash, and ironwood (Ostrya virginiana). White birch (Betula papyrijera) occurs in several spring branch canyons and north-facing slopes. Grazed sandhill prairie covers the flat to hilly uplands south of the river. The Crookston Table lies north of the river and supports grazed mixed grass prairie and cropland. Uplands on both sides of the river are dissected by canyons containing ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) - bur oak woodland and eastern deciduous forest.

We surveyed for birds almost daily by foot, truck, and canoe during the period 4 April-10 July 1982, and less frequently during the remainder of the summer. Records were also collected from other Preserve personnel and local residents. A complete summary of breeding records for all species is maintained at the Preserve headquarters.

Common names of birds follow the recent supplement to the AOU checklist (American Ornithologists' Union 1982).