The state of Nebraska is known for its different landscapes and diverse habitats. In fact, a trip through the state from the border at Missouri to the border at Wyoming on a diagonal trajectory will take you through a wide range of habitats, including hardwood forests, prairies, pine woodlands, and so on. For birdwatchers, this 490-mile stretch of diverse wildlife habitats presents an opportunity to observe different species of birds. You will surely find some of Nebraska’s best bird-watching spots in this range.
This post lists 6 of Nebraska’s best bird-watching spots you can explore this summer. The state is also known for its sandhills which make up up to a quarter of the state’s land area. The miles after miles of grassland also presents an opportunity to see rare grassland birds that may be difficult to find in other states.
Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center
The Spring Creek Prairie presents 850 acres of tall grass within an 11-mile sanctuary southwest of Lincoln in Nebraska. The grassland is home to several bird species that birdwatchers love to see. There are two hiking trails in the center.
The trails stretch over a combined distance of about 3 miles. The Sanctuary is open to everyone for free. In addition to bird-watching, the center has indoor activities, such as the cultural and natural history exhibits at the Audubon Center.
The Sanctuary hosts some very popular and rare birds. Some of the most common bird species you’re likely to encounter here include the Le Conte’s Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Shrike, Sprague’s Pipit, Ralph-Legged Hawk, Grasshopper Sparrow, Northern Bobwhite, Northern Harrier, Bobolink and Dickcissel among others.
The Rowe Sanctuary is one of the most amazing bird-watching locations in Nebraska and all of North America. If you’re looking to find migratory birds on their northern migration, you’ll see them in the hundreds of thousands in this Sanctuary. In addition to the outdoor portion of this Sanctuary, which is open every day from sunrise to sunset, you can also spend some time at the Iain Nicholas Audubon Center on specific days of the week.
On their seasonal migration flight, you’ll see numerous whooping cranes in this Sanctuary. Some other popular birds you’re likely to find here include the Sandhill Crane, Least Tern, Grasshopper Sparrow, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Red-Headed Woodpecker, and the famous Bald Eagle. The American Goldfinch, Orchard Oriole, and Eastern Kingbird are also quite popular in this location.
Branched Oak State Recreation Area
You can explore the State Recreation Center at Branched Oak for a small fee or a resident park permit. This recreation park is located 15 miles to the North West of Lincoln, Nebraska, and is open 24 hours a day and even on weekends. This park has 8 miles of hiking trails to explore on your bird-watching adventure. Most of these long trails present an interesting experience for both birdwatchers and non-bird watchers.
The 1800 acres of land is a hotspot for several bird species, including bald eagles and waterfowls. Some of the other bird species you’re likely to find in this park include the
red-headed woodpecker, American white pelican, Baltimore oriole, California gull, wild turkey, black scoter, red-throated loon, and Neotropic Cormorant
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge
With a national park pass, golden eagle passport, or senior access pass, you can explore this 45,800 acres of land teeming with several bird species. Getting to this wildlife refuge is a little difficult, considering the fact that you have to drive through up to 30 miles of unpaved roads just to get there. However, it is a rewarding trip that is totally worth it at the end of the day.
The Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is arguably the biggest bird-watching destination to explore in Nebraska, with several hotspots for various bird species. Some of the most popular birds you’re likely to find in this Sanctuary include the American bittern, the lark bunting, pied-billed grebe, black tern, Virginia rail, loggerhead shrike, and white-faced ibis, among others.
Ponca State Park
With a permit or a small fee, you can explore Ponca State Park and hike through numerous bird-watching hotspots in the park. The park is located on the Missouri River, and the rich habitats in the park are among the most productive birding areas in Nebraska. There are seven nice and easy hiking trails in this park.
The Ponca State Park is home to over 200 bird species in various habitats scattered across the park. Some of the most common birds in this park include the eastern towhee, bald eagle, red-headed woodpecker, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager, wild turkey, wood thrush, Baltimore oriole, and so on.
Indian Cave State Park
Another park on the Missouri River is the Indian Cave State Park, an amazing bird-watching location that you can access with a permit or for a small fee. The park is located in Southeastern Nebraska near the bottom border of the state. This park is a particularly great spot to see the spring migration with several gorgeous birds passing through. However, you can visit pretty much any time of the year.
In addition to migratory birds that are usually passing through, the Indian Cave State Park is home to some birds that are rarely found in other parts of Nebraska. Some popular bird species in this destination include the wood thrush, summer tanager, northern parula, Chuck-will’s widow, eastern whippoorwill, barred owl, Louisiana waterthrush, red-headed woodpecker, and so on.
Whether you like living in Nebraska or are a visitor planning a bird-watching trip to this part of the country, you will find Nebraska a delightful destination for bird-watching. Be sure to research any destinations you have decided to visit for bird-watching purposes. In many of these locations, you will also find other interesting attractions to keep you busy on your trip.
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- , Available here: https://www.audubon.org/news/birding-nebraska
- , Available here: https://www.birdinformer.com/birding-nebraska/
- , Available here: https://fatbirder.com/world-birding/north-america/united-states-of-america/state-of-nebraska/