Watching the morning flight of Sandhill Cranes at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary on the Platte River in Nebraska is one of North America’s birding must-dos and will certainly be a highlight of this tour. As these Sandhills are on their way north to breed, some individuals may even begin to dance as they reestablish their pair bonds prior to nesting. If we are very lucky we may find a few Whooping Cranes as well - several have been seen mixed in with the Sandhills every spring for the last few years. Our tour then takes us out west through the stark but beautiful Nebraska prairie to various lakes, impoundments, and lagoons where we should find a wide range of waterbirds, from American White Pelican and up to four species of grebe (Eared, Horned, and possibly Western & Clark’s), to Cinnamon Teal (in addition to thousands of other ducks & geese) and Bald Eagle. At the fabulous Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, we should find gulls aplenty (Franklin’s, Iceland, Glaucous, Lesser Black- backed are possible) and a nice selection of the first wave of arriving shorebirds including Baird’s, Least, & Pectoral Sandpipers, plus perhaps an early Long-billed Curlew or Wilson’s Phalarope. We will also scan the wide open expanse for a variety of great raptors (Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcon and Golden Eagle), and sparrows (Harris’s, Lincoln’s, American Tree), plus other targets like Lapland Longspur and Mountain Bluebird. We’ll even have the unique chance to compare Loggerhead and Northern Shrikes! Our exploration of the Nebraska prairie ends with visits to leks of displaying Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse, which will provide a fascinating, up-close view of these incredible, primitive-looking and sounding birds.
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Snow, Ross’s, Greater White-fronted, and Cackling Geese; Trumpeter Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser; Ring-necked Pheasant, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Prairie-Chicken; Horned, Eared, Western & Clark’s Grebes; Sandhill & Whooping Cranes; American Golden-Plover, Baird’s & Pectoral Sandpipers; Franklin’s, California, Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls; American White Pelican; Golden & Bald Eagles; Northern Harrier, Rough-legged & Ferruginous Hawks; Short-eared Owl; Merlin & Prairie Falcon; Loggerhead & Northern Shrikes; Black-billed Magpie; Horned Lark; Marsh Wren; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Pipit; Lapland Longspur; American Tree, Fox, White-crowned, Harris’s, and Lincoln’s Sparrows; Spotted & Eastern Towhees; Yellow-headed, Brewer’s, and Rusty Blackbirds; Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Great-tailed Grackle, and more.