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This book provides basic information on all the species of birds that have been reliably reported from the Nebraska Sandhills region as of 2020. They include 46 permanent residents, 125 summer breeders, 125 migrants, and 102 rare or accidental species, totaling 398 species. Information on status, migration, and habitats is provided for all but the very rare and accidental species. There are also descriptions of 46 refuges, preserves, and other public-access natural areas in the region and seven suggested birding routes. The text contains more than 90,000 words and over 250 literature references along with more than 20 drawings, 9 maps, and 32 photographs by the authors.

Preface • The Nebraska Sandhills and Their Unique Wetlands • The Drums of April and the Dances of Life • Biological Profiles of Some Typical Sandhills Birds

Introduction: Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills • Geography • Lakes and Rivers • Wetlands • Landscape Ecology • Climate • Birds and Humans in the Nebraska Sandhills • Human Impacts on Birds • Ornithological Research and Regional Birding

Species Accounts: Anatidae (Swans, Geese, and Ducks) • Odontophoridae (New World Quails) • Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Turkeys) • Podicipedidae (Grebes) • Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves) • Cuculidae (Cuckoos) • Caprimulgidae (Goatsuckers) • Apodidae (Swifts) • Trochilidae (Hummingbirds) • Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots) • Gruidae (Cranes) • Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets) • Charadriidae (Plovers) • Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Snipes) • Laridae (Gulls and Terns) • Stercorariidae (Jaegers) • Gaviidae (Loons) • Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants) • Pelecanidae (Pelicans) • Ardeidae (Herons and Egrets) • Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills) • Cathartidae (New World Vultures) • Pandionidae (Ospreys) • Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites) • Tytonidae (Barn Owls) • Strigidae (Typical Owls) • Alcedinidae (Kingfishers) • Picidae (Woodpeckers) • Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras) • Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers) • Laniidae (Shrikes) • Vireonidae (Vireos) • Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies) • Alaudidae (Larks) • Hirundinidae (Swallows) • Paridae (Chickadees and Titmice) • Sittidae (Nuthatches) • Certhiidae (Creepers) • Troglodytidae (Wrens) • Cinclidae (Dippers) • Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers) • Regulidae (Kinglets) • Turdidae (Thrushes) • Mimidae (Mockingbirds, Thrashers, and Catbirds) • Bombycillidae (Waxwings) • Sturnidae (Starlings) • Passeridae (Old World Sparrows) • Motacillidae (Pipits) • Fringillidae (Boreal Finches) • Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings) • Passerellidae (New World Sparrows and Towhees) • Icteriidae (Chats) • Icteridae (Blackbirds, Orioles, and Meadowlarks) • Parulidae (New World Warblers) • Cardinalidae (Cardinals, Tanagers, and Grosbeaks)

Refuges, Preserves, and Other Natural Areas in the Sandhills Region

Suggested Birding Routes in the Western and Central Nebraska Sandhills

References: General Surveys • Geology, Physiography, and Wetlands • Botany, Zoology, and Ecology • Birds

Index to Bird Species and Families

Maps: 1. Location of the Nebraska Sandhills, Ogallala aquifer, and other features • 2. Distribution of wetlands in the Nebraska Sandhills • 3. Rivers and counties in the Nebraska Sandhills • 4. The extent of surface sand and associated counties in the Nebraska Sandhills • 5. Wetlands and roads in the western Sandhills of Garden County and southern Sheridan County • 6. Major roads and highways in the Nebraska Sandhills • 7. Locations of counties, wildlife refuges, and other protected areas in the Nebraska Sandhills • 8. Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge and northern approaches • 9. Vicinities of Antioch and Lakeside, showing suggested birding routes

Tables: 1. Sandhills County Codes, Areas, and Human Populations • 2. Geographic and Ornithological Aspects of the Nebraska Sandhills Counties • 3. Relative Spring and Summer Abundance Indices of Mostly Wetland Bird Species in Three Sandhills National Wildlife Refuges

Figures: Greater prairie-chicken • Burrowing owl • Northern harrier • Long-billed curlew, in flight • Upland sandpiper • Snow geese • Sharp-tailed grouse, male display postures • Greater prairie-chicken, male display postures • American bittern, pied-billed grebe, double-crested cormorant, American white pelican, sandhill crane, and whooping crane • Long-billed curlew and piping plover • Forster’s terns, mating • Ferruginous hawk • Burrowing owl • Prairie falcon and green-winged teal • Loggerhead shrike • Grasshopper sparrow • Savannah sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, lark bunting, grasshopper sparrow, and horned lark • Eastern and western meadowarks and bobolink • Baltimore oriole, Bullock’s oriole, and hybrid phenotypes

Photographs: Long-billed curlew, adult female flying • Trumpeter swan • Trumpeter swan family • Wood duck, male • Northern pintail, males • Sharp-tailed grouse, male • Greater prairie-chicken, male • Pied-billed grebe, adult • Eared grebe, adults • Clark’s and western grebe, adults • Sora, adult • Black-necked stilt, adult • American avocet, adult • Upland sandpiper, adult • Long-billed curlew, adult female • Long-billed dowitcher, adults • Wilson’s snipe, adult • Wilson’s phalarope, adults • American bittern, adult male • Great blue heron, adult • Black-crowned night-heron, adult • Swainson’s hawk, adult • Great horned owl, adult • Burrowing owl, adult • Loggerhead shrike, adult • Horned lark, adult • Cliff swallow, adults • Grasshopper sparrow, male • Lark sparrow, adult • Yellow-headed blackbird, male • Red-winged blackbird, male • Common yellowthroat, male



Publication Date



Zea Books


Lincoln, NE


wildlife, ornithology, Panhandle, Nebraska, dunes


Animal Sciences | Biodiversity | Desert Ecology | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Sciences | Life Sciences | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Ornithology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Copyright © 2020 Paul A. Johnsgard and Josef Kren

The Birds of the Nebraska Sandhills