This article is a comprehensive guide to the 30 most common backyard birds in Nebraska, complete with pictures and tips on how to attract them to your own backyard. The information is compiled from the citizen science program eBird, ensuring its accuracy and reliability. The article also provides resources for bird identification and emphasizes the importance of considering habitat and seasonality when identifying birds. Each bird species is described in detail, including its size, shape, color, and preferred habitat. Tips on bird feeders and foods are provided, highlighting the fact that all backyard birds can be attracted with water. Notably, the article mentions the European Starling, an introduced species known for its aggressive behavior and often considered a pest. It also mentions the Red-winged Blackbird, commonly found in marshes but can occasionally be seen in backyards during winter. The article concludes by introducing the American Goldfinch, a small and brightly colored finch that is a summer resident in western and northwestern Nebraska.
Section 1: Introduction
Bird watching is a popular and enjoyable hobby that allows individuals to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of avian species. In the state of Nebraska, bird watching is particularly fascinating due to the diverse range of birds that can be found throughout the state. This article aims to provide comprehensive information on bird watching in Nebraska, including resources for bird identification and tips for attracting backyard birds. Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher or a beginner, this article will serve as a valuable guide to the common backyard birds in Nebraska.
Section 2: Bird Watching in Nebraska
2.1 Importance of Bird Watching
Bird watching is not only a recreational activity but also contributes to scientific research and conservation efforts. By observing and documenting birds, bird watchers can contribute data to citizen science programs like eBird, which provides valuable information on bird populations and distribution. This data helps scientists and conservationists understand trends in bird populations and make informed decisions for their protection. Bird watching in Nebraska therefore plays a crucial role in monitoring and preserving the state’s birdlife.
2.2 Resources for Bird Identification
Identifying birds can be a challenge, especially for beginners. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to assist bird watchers in Nebraska. Field guides specific to the region, such as “The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Nebraska,” provide detailed information and illustrations of each species. Online platforms like eBird and the Audubon Bird Guide app also offer comprehensive databases with photos, descriptions, and audio recordings of bird calls. These resources can greatly enhance the bird identification process and make bird watching in Nebraska even more enjoyable.
Section 3: Common Backyard Birds in Nebraska
Nebraska is home to a diverse array of bird species that can be observed in backyard settings. Here are ten of the most common backyard birds in the state:
3.1 American Robin
The American Robin is the most frequently seen bird in Nebraska. It is a medium-sized bird with a brick-red breast and a grayish back. American Robins can be found in open areas with trees, as well as in residential neighborhoods. They are known for their melodic song and their habit of hopping along lawns in search of worms and insects.
3.2 Mourning Dove
The Mourning Dove is a common sight in Nebraska. It is a medium-sized bird with a soft, muted coloration, including a pale gray-brown body and a dark eye patch. Mourning Doves are often seen perched on power lines or foraging on the ground for seeds. Their mournful cooing calls can often be heard throughout the day.
3.3 Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is highly recognizable with its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest. Male cardinals are bright red, while females have a more muted brown color with hints of red. These birds are known for their clear, whistling songs and can be found in woodlands, gardens, and parks throughout Nebraska.
3.4 European Starling
The European Starling is an introduced species that has become widespread in Nebraska. These birds have glossy black feathers with a purplish-green iridescence and yellow beaks. While their appearance is striking, European Starlings are often considered a pest due to their aggressive behavior and tendency to outcompete native species for nesting sites and food.
3.5 Red-winged Blackbird
The Red-winged Blackbird is a common sight in marshes and wetland areas, but can also be found in backyards during the winter months. Male Red-winged Blackbirds have black feathers with vibrant red and yellow shoulder patches, while females are brown with streaked patterns. Their distinctive “conk-la-ree” song is often heard in the warmer months.
3.6 American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is a small finch species known for its bright yellow plumage. During the summer months, males have striking yellow feathers with black accents, while females have a more subdued olive-brown color. These birds are commonly seen in weedy fields, gardens, and yards, where they feed on seeds from various plants.
3.7 House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is a common resident in urban and suburban areas throughout Nebraska. These birds have a mixture of colors, including brown, black, and gray, with males having a black bib on their throats. House Sparrows are highly adaptable and can be found nesting in buildings and foraging for food scraps near human habitation.
3.8 American Crow
The American Crow is a large, all-black bird that is highly intelligent and adaptable. Known for their raucous cawing calls, American Crows can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Nebraska, including woodlands, parks, and even urban areas. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide range of foods, including insects, small mammals, and carrion.
3.9 Song Sparrow
The Song Sparrow is a small bird with brown upperparts and streaked underparts. They have a variety of vocalizations, including a melodious song that gives them their name. These sparrows are commonly found in brushy areas, grasslands, and wetlands, where they forage for insects and seeds.
3.10 Northern Flicker
The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker species that can be found in Nebraska. It has a unique appearance, with a brown body, black-scalloped back, and a distinctive red crescent on the nape of its neck. Northern Flickers are often seen foraging on the ground for ants and beetles, and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas.
Section 4: Description of Bird Species
In this section, we will provide a more detailed description of each bird species mentioned in Section 3.
4.1 American Robin
The American Robin is a medium-sized bird with a length of about 9-11 inches. It has a plump body, a dark gray back, and a rusty-red breast. Its distinctive white eye ring and black head contribute to its recognizable appearance. American Robins are commonly found in both urban and rural areas, often foraging for earthworms and insects on lawns or in gardens.
4.2 Mourning Dove
Mourning Doves are medium-sized birds, measuring about 9-13 inches in length. They have a slender body, with a pale gray-brown coloration and a pointed tail. Mourning Doves are known for their soft cooing calls, which they produce with their unique vocal ability. They primarily feed on seeds, especially those of grasses and weeds.
4.3 Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is a medium-sized songbird with a length of about 8-9 inches. Males have a bright red plumage, a distinctive crest, a black face mask, and a sturdy beak. Females are a duller brown color with hints of red on their wings and tail. Northern Cardinals can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and parks.
4.4 European Starling
European Starlings are medium-sized birds, measuring about 7-9 inches in length. They have a stocky build, black feathers with a purplish-green iridescence, and yellow beaks. European Starlings are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including urban areas, agricultural fields, and woodlands. They have a varied diet, consuming both insects and fruits.
4.5 Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbirds are medium-sized birds, with males measuring about 8-11 inches in length and females measuring about 6-7 inches. Male Red-winged Blackbirds have black feathers with bright red and yellow shoulder patches, while females are brown with streaked patterns. They can be found in wetland areas, marshes, and even in backyard settings during the winter months.
4.6 American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is a small finch species, measuring about 4.5-5 inches in length. During the summer months, males have bright yellow feathers with black accents, while females have a more subdued olive-brown color. American Goldfinches are commonly seen in weedy fields, gardens, and yards, where they feed on seeds from various plants.
4.7 House Sparrow
House Sparrows are small birds, measuring about 5.5-7 inches in length. They have a plump body, a mixture of brown, black, and gray feathers, and males have a black bib on their throats. House Sparrows are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban and suburban areas, where they often nest in buildings and forage for food scraps.
4.8 American Crow
American Crows are large birds, with a length of about 16-21 inches. They have a completely black plumage and a sturdy beak. American Crows are known for their loud cawing calls, often heard in woodlands, parks, and even urban areas. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide range of foods, including insects, small mammals, and carrion.
4.9 Song Sparrow
Song Sparrows are small birds, measuring about 5.5-7 inches in length. They have brown upperparts with streaked underparts and a rounded tail. These sparrows have various vocalizations, including a melodious song that gives them their name. Song Sparrows can be found in a variety of habitats, including brushy areas, grasslands, and wetlands, where they often forage for insects and seeds.
4.10 Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers, measuring about 11-14 inches in length. They have a brown body, black-scalloped back, and a distinctive red crescent on the nape of their neck. Northern Flickers are often seen foraging on the ground for ants and beetles, using their long, barbed tongues to extract their prey. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas.
Section 5: Tips for Attracting Backyard Birds
5.1 Bird Feeders and Foods
One of the best ways to attract backyard birds is by providing bird feeders filled with a variety of bird foods. Different bird species have different dietary preferences, so it is essential to offer a range of seeds, suet, fruits, and nectar. Sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds are particularly popular among many backyard birds, including finches and sparrows. Suet blocks and suet feeders are also great for attracting woodpeckers and other insect-eating birds. Additionally, planting native plants that produce seeds or fruits can provide a natural food source for birds.
5.2 Importance of Water
Water is a vital element for attracting and sustaining backyard birds. Providing a bird bath or a simple shallow dish of water can attract a variety of birds for bathing and drinking. It is important to change the water frequently to prevent the growth of bacteria and to ensure the water remains clean. Adding a small fountain or dripper to the bird bath can also attract birds with the sound and movement of running water.
Section 6: Conclusion
Bird watching in Nebraska offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the state’s diverse avian species. By understanding the common backyard birds in Nebraska and implementing tips for attracting them, individuals can create a bird-friendly environment right in their own backyard. By contributing to citizen science programs and supporting conservation efforts, bird watchers can also play a crucial role in the protection and preservation of Nebraska’s birdlife. So grab a pair of binoculars, set up some feeders, and start enjoying the fascinating world of birds in Nebraska!