Western Meadowlark – Nebraska State Bird
Nebraska is a great place to watch and feed birds. Birdbaths, misters and drippers are especially effective in attracting birds, including non seed-eating species. Species that might be expected at feeders include: American Goldfinch, House Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and Mourning Dove. Each of these species is shown in the Nifty Fifty mini-guide.
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The Nifty Fifty Birds of Nebraska
The Nifty Fifty is a mini-guide to the birds of Nebraska. It includes descriptions, images, video and songs of 50 of the most often observed birds of Nebraska.
Developing bird-friendly habitat in your yard is the best way to attract a greater variety of species and to support local and migrating species. Native plants provide food and cover, are more insect and disease resistant than non-native species, and may require less water. A list of bird-friendly native plants for Nebraska is available by following the link on the left.
Bluebirds of Nebraska
Both the Eastern Bluebird and Mountain Bluebird are found in Nebraska. The Eastern Bluebird is found across the state, while the Mountain Bluebird has a more limited range, primarily in the northwest.
The Eastern Bluebird has a pleasant, musical song and a similar easy-to-identify flight call. They are most often found in open woodlands, parks, fields, along golf courses and cemeteries. The can be found in suburban areas with adequate open space.
Visit the bluebird section for detailed information on feeding bluebirds or building your own bluebird house.
Bluebirds can be attracted to peanut butter mixes, suet and fruit. Raisins soaked in hot water to soften them are well received. The bluebird’s special favorite is mealworms.
Bluebird begins nesting in Nebraska in early to mid-spring. One or two broods may be produced.
Hummingbirds of Nebraska
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species that regularly visits Nebraska. It nests in the eastern part of the state each year, before migrating south. In a remarkable journey for such a tiny bird, it migrates across the Gulf of Mexico twice each year.
Visit the hummingbird section for details on attracting hummingbirds as well as images of all regularly occurring North American hummingbirds.
Purple Martins in Nebraska
Purple Martins arrive in Nebraska early each year, returning from their wintering grounds in South America. Detailed Purple Martin information is available in the Purple Martin section.
Purple Martins are one of America’s favorite birds. Their arrival each spring is a much heralded event in many backyards and their departure each fall marks the passing of another year for many. In the eastern U.S., Purple Martins nest almost exclusively in Purple Martin houses and gourds provided by man. In the west they nest more regularly in natural cavities.
Purple Martin Scouts
Scouts are the earliest arrivals each year. They are the oldest members of the population and head north each year to claim the best nesting locations. Scouts can be either male or female birds.
In Nebraska look for scouts to start arriving in mid to late March. Martins move north as the weather warms and insect populations start to increase.
Purple Martins winter in South America. The journey can be as long as 5000 miles each way, each year! Martins follow at least three different paths as they return each spring. Some move through Mexico on their way to the West Coast. Others cross the Gulf of Mexico, leaving from the Yucatan Peninsula or take a route through the Caribbean islands to arrive in Florida.
Fall migration can start as early as mid-July in some parts of the country. In Florida migrants can be seen into September or October, with isolated reports even later in the the year. Prior to heading to South America, flocks of thousands of martins collect in roosts, some as large as hundreds of thousands of martins.
During the winter season these birds are apparently concentrated chiefly in the Amazon Valley of Brazil (Manaqueri, Barra do Rio Negro, and Itaituba) but are found in other parts of South America. A list of possible martin roosts in Alabama is available on the Purple Martin Conservation Association web site.
Martin nests typically have from five to six white eggs. One egg is laid each day at sunrise and no days are skipped until the egg-laying stops. Incubation lasts about 15 days but may last longer in cool weather. Purple martins fledge about 25-35 days after hatching.
Visit thePurple Martin section of the main Birdzilla Web site for information on martin houses, attracting purple martins and becoming a good purple martin landlord.
From the Bent Life Histories
Finally, here’s a glimpse at what noted ornithologist Alexander Sprunt Jr. said about purple martins in the Bent Life History series:
“It has always seemed to me that literature has been somewhat chary of the purple martin. Song and story have long stressed the advent of robin, bluebird, and goose as heralds of spring, and so they are, but is the martin any less so? True, it comes somewhat later than these others, but who can fail to thrill when, on waking early one morning, one hears the rich, gurgling calls of the first martin! It is a signal that spring is really at hand, indeed, at one’s very door. When the martins come, can summer be far behind? This largest of the swallows, in its handsomely glossy livery, whether slurred by literature or not, has ken a favorite with humanity for many generations. Even before the White man came to America’s shores it was a dooryard bird in Indian villages, and its status as such is unchanged today. It is, beyond all doubt, the “bird-box” species of this country. Its range is extensive, almost universal indeed, and it occurs from coast to coast and border to border. Young and old admire it, encourage it, and protect it, and those who have a word of criticism for it are few and far between. Alexander Wilson said that, in his day, he never found but one man who disliked the martin, and many a modern ornithologist will have had the same experience, if indeed it can be matched! Some birds occupy high pedestals in human regard, typified by the robin in the North and the mockingbird in the South, but in North and South the purple martin comes and goes as a welcome arrival and regretful departure; an always invited avian neighbor. Few are those anywhere who would fail to subscribe heartily to the wish: may its tribe increase.” (Mr. Sprunt and Mr. Wilson are two of America’s best known and most respected early ornithologists.)
Nebraska provides birders with a variety of exciting birding locations.
The birding section of this site has tips on birding locations and bird identification. The state-based birding information section provides additional birding related information.
Nebraska Resource Information
Nebraska Partnership for All-Bird Conservation
Audubon Society of Omaha
P.O. Box 3542
Omaha, NE 68103
Big Bend Audubon Society
P.O. Box 1575
Kearney, NE 68848
Wildcat Audubon Society
1445 Holly Dr
Gering, NE 69341
Nebraska Birding Festivals
Rivers and Wildlife Celebration – Also known as the
Phone: (402) 797-2301
Gather with wildlife enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate the annual migration of 500,000 sandhill cranes and millions of waterfowl through central Nebraska. Open to anyone interested in experiencing one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth and learning more about the natural world in a friendly and informal atmosphere.