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Nongame Bird Blog

Go birding – tally 150 during Nebraska 150

No one needs an excuse to go birding, not in Nebraska where we have half a million Sandhill Cranes, lekking Greater Prairie-Chickens and, of course, Pileated Woodpeckers.   However, one’s birding can always be made a little more interesting when you set a goal for yourself.  Such is the thinking or function of doing a big year.   A big year is where you try to see as many bird species as possible in a certain geographic area (e.g,. a state). …

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Pileated Woodpeckers moving deeper into Nebraska

Since my last post was about a declining species, the Black-billed Magpie, I will focus this blog post on an increasing species, the Pileated Woodpecker, to balance things out.  Pileated Woodpeckers are big (about crow sized), striking,  black-and-white woodpeckers with a red crest that are found in heavily forested regions of North America.  Pileated Woodpeckers occurred in extreme eastern Nebraska prior to settlement of the area by European Americans, but were extirpated prior to 1900.  Other than a few oddball sightings, …

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The disappearing magpie

Many birders and birdwatchers in western and central Nebraska have noticed the unfortunate absence in recent years of a distinctive, entertaining and familiar bird species, the Black-billed Magpie.  Magpies standout among birds with their striking black and white plumage.  Their blackish wings and long tail show greenish iridescence in appropriate lighting.  Magpies often make their presence known in an area with their “ka ka ka“ call before they are seen.  Not long ago in the late 1990s, Black-billed Magpies were found …

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About that jump in Bald Eagle nest numbers

Word got out yesterday via this press release that Bald Eagle nest numbers in Nebraska broke another record.  Like any good press release, this one was concise and stressed the main points, but this blog provides an opportunity to go into a bit more detail.   Breaking records has become old hat with Bald Eagle nest numbers and, in fact, this was the third year in a row when we’ve tallied an unprecedented number of active Bald Eagle nests in the …

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Top ten birding stories of 2016

It is difficult to believe we are closing out 2016 this week.   As with the end of any year, it seems the thing to do is to reflect on the year that was, particularly in regards to the year in birds and birding in Nebraska.  Below, I count down, from ten to one (with an honorable mention for good measure), the year’s top birding stories here in our state.   This is all my opinion – so my results may differ …

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Record breaker: Harlan County CBC recap

The Harlan County Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place 15 December and it set a record.  Previous Harlan County CBC’s were held in consecutive years from 1996-2001 and the CBC resumed in 2014.  Below, I provide a summary of the results from the 2016 edition of the Harlan County CBC. Conditions:  Weather was obviously cold ahead of the CBC.  The lake was about 80% open, but all other water bodies, including the Republican River, were mostly or completely frozen.  We also …

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Duck hunt yields rare bird

R.J. Weiss contacted me today about a duck he shot yesterday.  The duck happened to be the first one he has harvested even though he has gone duck hunting on previous occasions.   The duck turned out to be a bit unusual, as can be seen in his photographs, below. As R.J. suspected, the bird is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.  This southern species is normally found in southern Texas and points south.  Populations of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are increasing and birds occasionally wander …

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Peregrine news: Lewis back in Texas

If your memory is very good, you’ll remember that two years ago we received word that the Peregrine Falcon “Lewis” was observed at the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation building in The Woodlands, Texas.  Lewis was also observed at this same location in December 2015.   Lewis hatched, was raised and banded at the Capitol in 2012.  I received an email late today from Linda Kuhn with Anadarko that Lewis was back at this apparent wintering site.  Below is the photo that accompanied …

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Chasing the Cherry County Canyon Wren

Confirmation came last week that a wren hanging out at a remote Cherry County ranchstead was, in fact, a Canyon Wren, a species with only three other accepted Nebraska records.  Canyon Wrens are normally found in mountainous areas of western North America and there is a population as close as the Black Hills of South Dakota.  But, this species does not wander all too often.  The last “chase-able” Canyon Wren in the state was a bird in Knox County in …

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Breeding Bird Survey routes available for 2017

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.  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 routes.  Running a BBS requires only one morning in June to complete.  It is a great …

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