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Nongame Bird Blog

2014 Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) opportunities

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a long-term, volunteer-driven bird monitoring program conducted throughout North America.  BBS data are used widely by wildlife agencies, researchers, birders and conservation planners.  I use BBS data all the time, including in my recent blog post about Black-capped Chickadees.  The program began in 1966 and more information about the BBS can be found here.  I am the state BBS coordinator and perhaps my principal duty is to identify and recruit individuals to fill vacant …

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How a sandpiper’s bill is like an elephant’s trunk

All birds have bills, but different bills are used differently.  Rather than going on a prolonged digression about bills, it may be more useful to show rather than tell.  Typically, we think of bills as hard, inflexible and unfeeling.  They are comprised of bone and keratin and are used to grab, crack, poke and rip things.  That is certainly an apt description for many bird species, but not all.  Sandpiper’s bills are different.  Take a look at the photographs of …

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Chickadees, Devastation, & the Long Road Back

A little over a decade ago, a novel disease was sweeping across North America from east to west.  In 2002, West Nile Virus (WNV) reached Nebraska and had immediate impacts.  Humans, livestock, and birds were susceptible to WNV and consequences were dire in some instances. As we all hopefully know, mosquitoes were and are WNV’s main transmission vector. Now, with more than a decade’s worth of experience and perspective, WNV has become part of life.   It remains dangerous, but we …

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The Year of the Snowy Owl?

There has been a notable irruption of Snowy Owls during the winter of 2013-14.    Indeed, Snowy Owls are all over the news.  They were even featured on CBS television’s evening newscast on Thursday.   All this talk has some people wondering how many Snowy Owls have been observed in Nebraska this winter.  Good question, easy answer.  The one and only report was a bird found by Michael Burgert in Pawnee County on 21 December.  His cell phone photo documentation is shown …

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A Whole Lot of Rough-legs Going On

Snowy Owls receive a lot of attention when they venture south to the conterminous U.S., as well they should.  However, there is another stunning Arctic-breeding raptor species that regularly travels south to places like Nebraska.  It generally receives little fanfare.  If you’ve traveled around the state recently (and were conscious), you’ve likely seen one or two, maybe 22.   The species I am referring to is the Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus).  Like Snowy Owls, numbers fluctuate from year to year. …

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Spotted…Again

Contributed by Nongame Bird Biologist Lauren Dinan As we are set to endure the coldest temperatures in years, “our” famous home grown Piping Plover was once again photographed on a warm beach.  Something to ponder as you shiver.  More importantly, these photographic reports document a bird’s  travels.  As you may remember from a post a few months ago, we work in cooperation with the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln School of Natural Resources in …

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Mallard X Northern Pintail hybrid

Sifting through large flocks of common species searching for uncommon or rare birds is a standard practice of birding, particularly during Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) when one of the objectives is to rack up as many species as possible.   On Saturday, 28 December, on the North Platte CBC, my party (group of birders) was sifting through a couple thousand Mallards and several hundred Canada and Cackling Geese at Bowley’s Pond.  We were successful at finding a few Greater White-fronted and …

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Top 10 Nebraska birding stories of 2013

At the end of last year, I blogged about my picks for the top ten birding/bird stories in Nebraska for 2012.  Here we are again, near the conclusion of another year and it is time to do it again.  So with no further adieu, in reverse order from ten to one, my top ten for 2013. #10 – Acorn Woodpecker:  A mega-rarity for Nebraska, an Acorn Woodpecker was discovered by Byron and Deb Alberts in Hayes County in June.  The …

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Winter birds from the weekend’s CBCs

I was out and about this past weekend helping on Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), which I recently blogged.  The Lincoln CBC was held on Saturday and the Branched Oak Lake/Seward CBC occurred on Sunday.  The early December cold snap relinquished its grip and weather was actually pleasant.  The cold snap froze most water bodies and reduced the overall number of species and bird numbers.   At this point, I have not heard of any major surprises discovered.  Nevertheless, I was …

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Bald Eagle nest numbers take unexpected dip in 2013

Bald Eagle nest monitoring is an annual project of the Nongame Bird Program.  Fortunately, we are assisted by numerous partners and individuals such as the National Park Service-Missouri River National Recreational River, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Bald Eagles bred in the state historically but were absent as a breeding species for at least a century, if not longer.   Not all that long ago, Bald Eagles were state and federally listed as …

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