“In the bleak midwinter,” as the song goes, birding in the Northern Plains can be a bit challenging, especially if you enjoy observing a variety of species. This time of year, birds follow the bird feeders, wherever they are — in yards, parks, nature centers and wildlife refuges.
Species on feeder guest lists are most likely to be sunflower, safflower, millet or niger seed eaters, plus those that prefer suet. Common visitors can include: Black-capped Chickadees; White-breasted Nuthatches; Downy, Hairy or Red-bellied Woodpeckers; Northern Cardinals; Dark-eyed Juncos; and a variety of Sparrows. Also watch for Carolina Wrens, Brown Creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches.
Be sure to check cemeteries with large pine and spruce trees, where you may spot the White-winged or Red Crossbill, a real treat. If you live in the Metro, take a spin in the country to look for Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs and a few Snow Buntings, mixed in with the Longspurs and over-wintering Meadowlark species.
And if there is any open water always watch for waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans and an occasional Great Blue Heron).
By late February, Snow Geese (across Nebraska) and Sandhill Cranes (from Grand Island west to North Platte) start returning. In recent years, some Sandhill Cranes have wintered along the stretch from Grand Island to Kearney. If you haven’t seen the Crane and Goose migrations, put them on your bucket list. More on this group of migrant species in the next Meadowlark newsletter and on our website.