Bird Watching

See Sharp Tail Grouse and Greater Prairie Chickens from the viewing blinds at the Forest.

The Sandhills and Thomas County are home to well over 300 species of birds. The open landscape and endless views lead to some of the most scenic bird watching and hunting areas in Nebraska. The rolling grasslands surrounded by sand dunes support a number of species including greater prairie-chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, upland sandpipers, burrowing owls, long-billed curlews, horned larks, and western meadowlarks. Bald eagles and trumpeter swans are seen along the Middle Loup and Dismal Rivers. Turkeys have been reintroduced to the Sandhills and are quite a common site now, especially along the rivers, creeks and deep canyons. There are both Merriam and Rio Grand species in the Sandhills.

The conifers at the Nebraska National Forest provide habitat for great horned owls, black-capped chickadees, and red crossbills. Brushy and riparian thicket areas attract several woodpeckers, brown thrashers, towhees, chipping sparrows and Baltimore orioles. At least six warbler species nest here, including yellow, black-and-white, American redstart, ovenbird, common yellowthroat, and yellow-breasted chat. Three vireos (Bell’s, warbling and red-eyed) also nest here. There is a bird checklist available at the headquarters.

One of the premier bird watching activities is to watch the Greater Prairie Chickens in their “Booming Dance.” There’s pubic access at the Nebraska National Forest. Forest personel can provide information on the locations of the two grouse blinds,where mostly sharp-tailed grouse and a few greater prairie-chickens display primarily late March to late April.