Southern Great Plains: Fall 2019

1 Aug—30 Nov

Joseph A. Grzybowski, Oklahoma

W. Ross Silcock, Nebraska

Recommended citation: Grzybowski, J.A. and Silcock, W. R. 2020. Fall 2019: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds.

The most striking feature of this fall’s report is the large number of lingering migrants, a trend that continues and seemingly increases. This tendency is evidenced prominently with passerines and also with shorebirds. Correspondingly, arrivals of northern wintering species such as Common Merganser, Rough-legged Hawk, Common Redpoll, Snow Bunting, and American Tree Sparrow were late. Fall often produces an array of rarities—this season was no exception. Irruptive species were unusually distributed throughout the region: multiple Red Crossbills were found in Nebraska, yet not elsewhere; other finch species were essentially absent from the region. It is also noteworthy that Cattle Egrets nested colonially in Nebraska for the first time.


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms W.M.A., Barton, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman, OK); Hefner (L. Hefner, Oklahoma, OK); McConaughy (L. McConaughy Res., Keith, NE); Quivira (Quivira N.W.R., Stafford, KS); Rainwater Basin: a series of playas in south-central and southeastern NE; Red Slough (Red Slough W.M.A., McCurtain, OK).

Contributors (Sub-regional editors in boldface)

NEBRASKA:  Dina Barta (DBa), Blair Bernson (BBe), Dylan Beyer (DBe), Stephen Brenner, Charles B. Bridgham, Ed Brogie (EBr), Lee Brogie (LBr), Mark Brogie, John Carlini (JCa), Jeff Dawson, Kathy DeLara, Roger Dietrich, Paul Dunbar, Curtis Dykstra, Larry Einemann, Dave Ely, William Flack, Rita Flohr, Bob & Kathy Gerten (B&KG), Mackenzie Goldthwait (MGo), Katie Gooby, Alan Grenon, Marie Griffin (MGr), Kyle Gust (KGu), Knut Hansen (KHa), Robin Harding, Kadynn Hatfield, David Heidt, Bill F. Huser, Jan Johnson, Mike Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Joshua Keller (JKe), Doug Kibbe (DKi), Kelly Krechmer (KKr), Steve Kruse (SKr), Thomas E. Labedz, Sam Manning (SMa), Steven Mlodinow, Jonathan Nikkila, Loren & Babs Padelford (L&BP), Theresa Pella, Whitney Pennington

Contributors (cont.)

Brian Peterson, Susan Quinn, Lanny Randolph, Neal Ratzlaff, Allen Reyer, Justin Rink, Gary Roberts, Paul Roisen, Ruben Siegfried (RSg), W. Ross Silcock, Kent Skaggs, Shari Schwartz (SSc), Jason St. Sauver, Linda Sullivan (LSu), Phil Swanson, David Tønnessen, Moni Usas, T. J. Walker, Ron & Susan Whitney (R&SW), Andrea Wiggins, Michael Willison, Elizabeth Winter, Greg Wright.  KANSAS:  Dallas Alexander (DAl), Henry Armknecht, J. C. Avena, Jeremy Birket, Dan Broers, Andrew Burnett, Ted Cable, Jeff Calhoun, Kathy Carroll, Walt Cochran, Dee Dunlap, Corey Entriken, Tom Ewert, Christopher Frick, Malcolm Gold, Alec Hopping, Barry Jones, Josh Keating, Mark Keller, Dave Klema, Thomas Koffel, Kaleb Kroeker, Chris Lake, Larry Langstaff, Dan Larson, Gary Lechiliter, Micky Louis, John Mallery, Terry & Sam Mannell (T&SM), Kathy McDowell (KMc), Mick McHugh, Debra McKee, Christi McMillen (CMc), Kurtis Meier, Don Merz (DMe), Andrew Miller (AMi), Joseph Mosley (JMo), Alan Myers, Atcha Nolan, Mark Nolen, Chuck Otte, Mark Pheasant, Galen Pittman, Ken Pitts, Mike Rader, Roger Schultz, Carolyn Schwab, David Seibel, Steve Seltman (SSe), Sara Shane, Logan Smith, Terry Swope, David Tønnessen, Curt Van Boening (CVB), Rodney Wedel, Molly Zahn.  OKLAHOMA: Ty Allen, John Anderson (JAn), David Arbour, James W. Arterburn, John Ault, Brad Bergstrom, Blair Bernsun (BBe), Aaron Boone (ABo), Devin Bosler (DBo), Eli Bridge (EBd), Jeff Cox (JCo), Steve Davis, Bill Diffin, David Drake (DDr), Melinda Droege, Braden Farris, Russell Goodin, Joseph A. Grzybowski, Warren Harden, Glen Hensley, Grace Huffman (GHu), Huck Hutchens, Ben Jessup (BJe), Sarah Kamis, Patty Kirk, Tomasz Kuder (TKu), Jeanine Lackey, Scott Loss, Brian Marra, Michael McCloy (MMy), Caleb McKinney, Steve Metz (SMe), Terry Mitchell, John Muller (JMu), Landon Neuman , Brett & Lareina Niland (B&LN), Mark Nolen, Patricia Norris, Tim O’Connell (TOC), Tammy Parks (TPa), Deena Parsons, Mark Peterson (MPe), Zach Poland, Edwin Price, Nancy Reed (NRe), Paul Ribitzki (PRi), Justin Roach (JRo), Susie Ruby, Avry Smith, Randy Soto (RSo), Richard Specht (RSp), Curtis Stewart (CSt), Jack D. Tyler, Noelle Wagner, Frank Walker, Ken Williams, John Wilson (JWi), Doug Wood, Jimmy Woodard, Hal Yokum.

Whistling-Ducks through Hummingbirds

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks have become established at Red Slough, in the southeast corner of the region. The high count of 371 was tallied on 26 Sep (DA). This species continues to push into Kansas and Nebraska, too: over 40 (including many juveniles) were in Pratt, KS 1 Sep (BJ), and 5, rather late, were in Cedar and Knox, NE on 16 Nov (MB, m.ob.). There were at least two reports of breeding Whistling-Ducks in Kansas (fide CO), as well as further north in Phelps, NE, where adults and a brood of 9 were present 28 Sep—15 Oct (KKr, photos). A Brant of the subspecies hrota, associating with Cackling Geese, was a rare find in Clay, NE 7 Nov (KGu fide JGJ; photo). 3 Trumpeter Swans arrived early, on 2 Nov, in Osage, OK (PRi). 2 Tundra Swans, a rare fall migrant, were in Dodge, NE 17—25 Nov (JGJ, m.ob.) and 5 Tundras were with Trumpeters in Saunders, NE 24-25 Nov (L&BP; photo, PR). Late Blue-winged Teal, individuals, were at 2 Lancaster, NE locations 13 & 14 Nov (SB, LE). American Black Duck has become scarce in recent years. The only report this season was from Knox, NE 10 Nov (MB). A “Mexican Duck” with Mallards in Perkins, NE 11—12 Sep (SM, DE, WRS; photos) provided a first Nebraska record of this taxon. Ring-necked Duck, vagrant in summer, was more numerous than usual: a total of 7 were at 4 Kansas locations during Aug (fide CO); Nebraska’s first modern breeding record, a hen and brood in n. Cherry 16 Sep (GW) photo), was unexpected. Oklahoma’s first-of-fall Greater Scaup, 2 individuals, arrived on 21 Oct at Hefner (BD). The 2000 Common Goldeneye on Sooner Lake, Pawnee/Noble, OK 25 Nov (JWA) constituted a good count for that far south. The 3 states in this region hosted a total of 17 Surf Scoters from 12 Oct, as well as 9 White-winged Scoters beginning 16 Oct (fide WRS, CO, JAG); 5 White-wingeds were in Cedar/Knox NE 2—15 Nov (MB, m. ob.). Only 3 Black Scoters were reported, singles in Cedar/Knox, NE 2-23 Nov (MB, m. ob.), Douglas, KS 16 Nov (TK, m.ob.), and Pawnee/Noble, OK 25 Nov (JWA). 10 Long-tailed Ducks were reported from 8 locations in Nebraska and Kansas, first on 2 Nov (fide WRS, CO).

The only Red-necked Grebe reported was in Linn, KS 30 Nov (KC). An estimated 800 Eared Grebes, a high summer count, were in Garden, NE 10 Aug (SM).  Only 1 Clark’s Grebe was recorded, at Cheyenne Bottoms, 18 Aug (DM, MP). Inca Doves are regularly reported in southern Oklahoma, but up to 20, further north, in Cleveland 15 Sep–24 Nov (EBd, JMu et al.), were notable. 3 Common Nighthawks in Johnston, OK 17 Oct were late (JRo). A Common Poorwill in Brown, NE 8 Aug (AW) was further east than expected, and as many as 7 in Beaver, OK 11—12 Oct (CM) suggest later departure dates. A Chimney Swift, westerly, in Kimball, NE 3 Sep (JGJ) was likely a migrant. Late Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were in Sarpy, NE 16 Oct (AR) and Le Flore, OK 26 Oct (TPa); 5 were further west than typical in Nebraska and Kansas 28 Aug—29  Sep (fide WRS, CO). 2 Anna’s Hummingbirds in KS were exceptional records: an immature male was initially seen in Russell 23 Aug—11 Oct, and this individual was also reported in nearby Wilson, Ellsworth during late Sep (DK, MR, m. ob.); an immature female was also in Wilson, Ellsworth 30 Oct—15 Nov (RS, DK).  A Broad-tailed Hummingbird was a rare find in Cimarron, OK 1 Sep (MN). Rufous Hummingbirds in Lancaster, NE 22 Aug (R&SW) and Tulsa, OK 31 Jul—1 Aug (JWi) were easterly; 1 in Cleveland, OK 4—8 Nov was later than expected. Calliope Hummingbird is great find in eastern Oklahoma. 1 was recorded in Oklahoma 7—14 Aug (FW). Late individuals of this species were reported in Scotts Bluff, NE 30 Sep—4 Oct (RSg), and Ellis, KS 1 Oct (HA).

Rails through Pelicans

The only Yellow Rail reported from the region this season was in Douglas, KS, 20 Oct (MP). Numerous Purple Gallinules, including a high count of 33 and a brood, were at Red Slough 26 Aug—11 Sep (DA). Common Gallinule comprise a metapopulation in most of this region. 2 adults with 9 young were in Knox 10 Aug—27 Sep (MB, m.ob.), and a juvenile was in Nemaha, NE 1 Sep (SMa). The 65 Whooping Cranes at Quivira 30 Oct (BJ) were surely a delightful sight; Cleveland, OK had its first county record of this species when 10 were found on 1 Nov (DP). A Black-necked Stilt in Phelps, NE, 22—29 Sep (JN, LR, RH) was notably late, as were 2 in Canadian, OK 19 Oct (RSp). 4 Black-necked Stilts in Washington, NE, 21—31 Aug (SMa) were further east than typical. The 7 American Avocets in Alfalfa, OK 30 Nov (CSt) were quite late; another late individual was seen at Quivira 29 Nov (JB). An American Golden-Plover in Sedgwick, KS 23 Nov (MN), and 1-2 in Garfield, OK 10—14 Nov (CSt), were late as well. Piping Plovers are scarce in fall; the individual in Tulsa, OK 10 Aug (SMe, B&LN) is notable. Mountain Plover is an exceptional find east of the High Plains; the individual in Wagoner 20—23 Sep (JWA, JCo, m.ob.) furnishes a great record. A Whimbrel, an unexpected fall migrant in the region, was in Tulsa, OK 18 Aug (ZP, m.ob.). Long-billed Curlews, rare in western Oklahoma, were located in Jackson 17 & 29 Aug (JA), Tulsa 23 Aug (JWA, JAG, JCo; easterly), and Alfalfa 26 Aug (GH, JAG). Hudsonian Godwits are very rare in the region during fall; a juvenile was found in Lancaster, NE 21 Aug (MW, photo, DBe). A Marbled Godwit at Cheyenne Bottoms 25 Nov (DB) was very late, and another in Wagoner, OK 23 Aug (JAG, JWA, JCo) was easterly.

Typically, adult Dunlin are a late-fall migrant, so one in Douglas, KS 21 Aug (GP) was notably early. Oklahoma’s high count of Buff-breasted Sandpipers for the period was 125 in Tulsa/Wagoner 23 Aug (JWA, JAG, JCo); 8 in Garfield, OK 27 Sep (CSt) were later than expected. Willet departs early; so one in Lancaster 25 Sep (TEL) and 3 in Butler, KS 20 Oct (AN) were late. An extremely late Wilson’s Phalarope was in Tulsa, OK 21 Oct (KW, JWA; photo), and late Red-necked Phalaropes were recorded in Lancaster, NE 13 Oct (MW) and Kiowa/Pratt, KS 19 Oct (HA, JC). Red Phalarope is a great find for this region—one was in Alfalfa, OK 6 Sep (JAG, GH; photo). Also exceptional in the region were multiple Long-tailed Jaegers, including an adult in Garfield, NE 16—20 Sep (CBB, MB; photo, video), another adult at Cheyenne Bottoms 2 Sep (DB, MG, m. ob.), an immature at Cheyenne 25 Oct—3 Nov (MR), and 2 of unspecified ages in Butler, KS 7 Sep (DD, CVB, TE). A jaeger unidentified to species was in Alfalfa, OK 2 Sep (LN). An immature Black-legged Kittiwate, exceptional in the region, was in Cedar, NE 16—26 Nov (RD, m.ob.). Sabine’s Gull made a strong showing this autumn; roughly 40 individuals were reported throughout the region 4 Sep—8 Nov. Of these, 20 were in NE, 14 were in KS, and 5 were in OK (fide WRS, CO, JAG). A juvenile Little Gull was at Cheyenne Bottoms 2 Sep (DB, MG, m.ob.). Laughing Gull is annual but rare during summer in the region. 3 were reported, all in OK: 1 in Delaware 11 Aug (NW), and an immature and a subadult in Cherokee 4 Aug—27 Sep (JWA et al.). High counts of Franklin’s Gull were 10,500-25,000 in Alfalfa, OK 24 Oct—7 Nov (GH), and 8500-18,000 at Hefner 22 Oct—9 Nov (BD, m.ob.).

California Gull is becoming a more widespread migrant in the region. Nebraska had 4 easterly reports, 29 Sep—9 Nov (fide WRS); singles were in Alfalfa, OK 16 Sep (JAG, GH) and Payne, OK 26 Oct (SL). Early Herring Gulls were reported from Cheyenne Bottoms 29 Aug (MG), in Washington, OK 1 Sep (first-cycle; MD et al.), in Ellsworth, KS 5 Sep (TE), and at McConaughy 7—9 Sep (DT, m.ob.). An exceptionally early Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull at McConaughy 8 Oct (SM) was followed by another early juvenile in Cedar, NE 29 Oct—7 Nov (MB, m. ob.). Lesser Black-backed Gulls have become regular fall migrants in the region. 7 were reported 8 Sep—8 Oct in Nebraska and Kansas (fide WRS, CO), and about 5 from 7—27 Nov were reported in Oklahoma (fide JAG). A first-cycle Glaucous Gull was in Scotts Bluff 12 Nov (SM). An adult Great Black-backed Gull, regionally notable, was at McConaughy 11 Sep—8 Oct (BP, photo, SM). A Black Tern in Phelps, NE 2 Oct (WF) was rather late. Common Tern—uncommon—was noted from 1 Aug at Cheyenne Bottoms (MG, ML, JM) to 19 Oct in Lancaster, NE (MW), this departure is notably late. 12-15 Common Terns were reported from Oklahoma from 13 Sep—1 Oct (fide JAG). Pacific Loons, becoming more regular in the region, were recorded in all three states, first on 1 Nov (fide WRS, CO, JAG). The only reports of Yellow-billed Loon were of an individual spotted erratically at Hefner 27 Oct (RG), and then also from 3—17 Nov (BM, m.ob.). Neotropic Cormorants in Oklahoma outside Red Slough included 7 birds from 5 locations 3 Aug—5 Oct (fide JAG). 95 Anhingas at Red Slough 6 Aug (DA) was an excellent tally; one there 10 Nov was quite late (DA). Only one Brown Pelican, a vagrant in the region, appeared this season. It was in Kearny, KS 5 Oct (KM).

Egrets through Falcons

Great Egrets in Wyandotte, KS 22 Nov (AM) and Miami, KS 29 Nov (WC), were late; so were 3 Snowy Egrets 29 Oct in Alfalfa, OK. One of these was reported through 7 Nov (GH). The only vagrant Little Blue Heron, reported further west than expected in Hamilton, KS 30 Aug (MG), may reflect the general scarcity of this species throughout Oklahoma this summer (fide JAG).  Single Tricolored Herons were noted at Red Slough 13 Aug & 18 Sep (DA); one, at Cheyenne Bottoms 10—16 Aug (JCA, MG, JMo), was extralimital. The first Rainwater Basin breeding records for Cattle Egret were a colony of about 80 nesting adults first noted in Clay, NE, on 20 Aug (JGJ, SB). 20,000 Cattle Egrets at Red Slough 26 Aug—11 Sep (DA) was a spectacular count; a lone Cattle Egret lingered in Canadian, OK until 16 Nov (BJe). Green Herons, not annual in the Nebraska panhandle, were found in Kimball 1 Sep (SM) and 29 Sep (SM). The only vagrant Yellow-crowned Night Herons in Nebraska this season were two juveniles in Clay 20 Aug (JGJ, SB). A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and two White-faced Ibises were recorded at Red Slough on the late date of 10 Nov (DA). These were followed by 5-14 White Ibises present 19-27 Nov (DA). A Black Vulture was found northwesterly in Russell, KS 29 Aug (DK); one in Kay, OK 27 Nov (BB) was outside its expected Oklahoma range. 2 Ospreys in Cherokee, OK 4 Aug (JWA) perhaps attempted nesting; another in Washington, OK 9 Aug (MPe) was unexpected. A Swallow-tailed Kite—exceptional in this region—was in Geary, KS 7—13 Aug (JK, m.ob.). A notably early Sharp-shinned Hawk was in Pushmataha, OK 19 Aug (JAG). 4 reports in Nebraska of Northern Goshawk suggest the possibility of an influx year. These were in Dixon 3 Nov (JJ), Lancaster 19 Nov (SKr, photo), and Scotts Bluff 29 Nov (SM); the fourth, initially rescued in western Nebraska in October, was released 21 Nov by Raptor Recovery (fide JGJ).

Mississippi Kites bred, for the first time, in Lancaster, NE—1-2 juveniles were observed being fed near the nest on 11 Sep (DBa). In 2018, adult kites were noted at this site. Mississippi Kites continued, successfully, to breed in Lincoln, NE: young and an adult were noted 17 Aug (GW). Late Mississippi Kites included 5 in Payne, OK 30 Sep (TOC) and 1 at Hefner 3 Oct (DBo). The Harris’s Hawk captured on 14 Nov at Offutt Air Force Base, Sarpy, NE as part of USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services’ procedures for preventing avian-aircraft collisions was very unexpected. Individuals of the recently recognized Red-tailed Hawk subspecies, abieticola, were documented in Johnson, NE 13 Oct (TP photo) and Douglas, NE 28 Nov (SMa photo); others have been previously reported in Oklahoma. A Broad-winged Hawk in Harper, OK 26 Sep (JAG) was quite far west for this season. A Burrowing Owl lingered until 2 Nov at a known breeding site in Kearney, NE (KS). Observers in Nebraska searching for Northern Saw-whet Owls located 5 this season—3 in Sioux 19 Oct (SM), and 2 captured using audiolure at separate locations in Lancaster 7 & 14 Nov (JGJ, SB). A Lewis’s Woodpecker in Kimball, NE 20 Nov (SM) was late. A Yellow-belled Sapsucker was early in Dakota, NE 3 Sep (BFH), and one at a Garfield feeder 9 Nov (B&KG) was notably west and late. Red-naped Sapsuckers wandering notably east in Nebraska were a female in Hitchcock 15 Sep (BP, KH, JN, photos; GR, TJW), and an individual in Hamilton, KS 22 Sep (HA). Ladder-backed Woodpecker edged northward to Stanton, KS, 8 Aug (HA, JC) and 1 Sep (JC, m.ob.). Early falcons were a Merlin at Cheyenne Bottoms 18 Aug (AH) and a Prairie Falcon in Pratt, KS 19 Aug (MR).

Flycatchers through Swallows

An Olive-sided Flycatcher in Butler, NE 5 Aug (LE) was early. The 41 Western Wood-Pewees in Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux, NE 24 Aug (SM) was a strong count. Eastern Wood-Pewees, rare in southwest Nebraska, were in Hitchcock 14 Sep (JGJ, SB) and Chase 8 Sep (JD, DKi, MGo); both of these records were single birds. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers at McConaughy 3 Sep (SM), and in Wallace, KS 22 Sep TE, RW) were rather west for the region. So was an Alder Flycatcher in Custer, NE 19 Aug (WF). Late empids included 2-4 Acadian Flycatchers in Washington, OK 23 Sep-1 Oct (MPe), a Willow Flycatcher in Lancaster, NE 20 Sep (KHa, MW, BBe), a Least Flycatcher in Cleveland, OK 8 Oct (RSo), and—most surprising—a very late Hammond’s Flycatcher in Scotts Bluff, NE 12 Oct (KD, photos). Fall reports of Dusky Flycatcher along the western edge of the region included 9 birds at 8 locations 24 Aug—8 Oct (fide WRS, CO, JAG). A Cordilleran Flycatcher, regionally unexpected, was found in Morton, KS 9 Sep (DT). A Say’s Phoebe in Lancaster, NE 8 Oct (MW) was both easterly and late. The region’s first record of Couch’s Kingbird was an individual in Comanche, OK 14—26 Aug (MMy, AS, m.ob.); remarkably, 3 were there 18 Oct—5 Nov (PN; JAG, m.ob.). Cassin’s Kingbirds lingered late in Banner, NE 4 Oct (2; KD), Cimarron, OK 12 Oct (JAn, JDT, WH), and Stanton, KS 19 Oct (LL).  Departure dates for Western Kingbirds in Oklahoma are somewhat uncertain because separating young and molting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers can be difficult to rule out. Mid-August departures in central Oklahoma, and late August for southwestern Oklahoma, is indicated; late birds documented this season were on 12 Sep in Jackson, southwestern OK (JA), and 18 Sep in Cleveland, cen. OK (JMu). A group of 200 Eastern Kingbirds in Lancaster, NE 6 Sep (LSu) was an excellent fall count, and one in Kearney, NE 7 Oct (WF) was quite late. Also late were single Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in Crawford, KS 10 Nov (AB), Jackson, OK 14 Nov (JA), and Pontotoc, OK 18 Nov (JL).

A rare White-eyed Vireo in Lancaster, NE 25 Sep (JGJ) was a late record, too, as was a Bell’s Vireo in Cherry, NE 25 Sep (TP) and 1-2 Bell’s at Hefner 1—2 Oct (BD). Cassin’s Vireos were noted, as expected, in the Nebraska panhandle during fall (fide WRS). Others were found in Hamilton, KS 30 Aug (MG), and Morton, KS 31 Aug (DB, TE, KC, MG) and 2 Sep (AMi). A Plumbeous Vireo was also in Morton, KS 31 Aug (MG, m.ob., fide CO). Late vireos in Oklahoma were a Blue-headed in Oklahoma 6 Nov (JW) and a Warbling there 3 Oct (BF). A Philadelphia Vireo, rather west, was in Buffalo, NE 5 Sep (JN). The 8000 American Crows in Tulsa, OK 15 Oct was a notable count (SR). A calling Fish Crow in Brown, KS 26 Sep (DMc) was northwest its expected range. Ravens present identification challenges in western parts of the region, particularly in southwestern Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle. There, reports can be puzzling (CO). This season, there were 4 reports involving 8 Chihuahuan Ravens in Hamilton, Morton, and Stanton, KS (HA, JC, MG, DT, m. ob.), and 6 reports totaling 13 Common Raven in those same counties (MG, KC, TE, RW, DM, MP). Lingering swallows in Oklahoma were an exceptionally late Bank in Payne 12 Oct (LN) and a Tree at Red Slough 12—13 Nov (DA). A Purple Martin roost in Lancaster, NE held 10,000 birds 30 Aug—3 Sep (SSc, JCa, LE), and an exceptional tally for the late date of 18 Sep was 932 in Tulsa, OK (ABo). Late also were a single Purple Martin in Payne, OK 29 Sep (SL) and 2 in Cowley, KS 30 Sep (DS). A very late Cliff Swallow was in Johnston, OK 31 Oct (JRo). Up to 7 Cave Swallows were at Red Slough 18 Sep—2 Oct (DA). Cave Swallows tend to linger later in fall than Cliffs, and present some identification challenges: 4 birds reported as Petrochelidon sp. were in Johnston, OK 31 Oct (JRo) and 5 birds in Harper, KS 27 Oct (CE) were also of uncertain identity (fide CO).

Bushtit through Finches

Bushtits, just occasional in southwest Kansas, were located northerly in Scott 24 Nov (7 birds; KC, MG, ML). Red-breasted Nuthatch numbers were notably high in the Nebraska panhandle, but low in the east; the high count was 87 in Sioux, NE 19 Oct (SM). A Red-breasted Nuthatch in Ford, KS on 3 Aug (JC) was early. A Rock Wren in Lincoln, NE 8 Oct (SM) was rather eastern.  Carolina Wren is resident in southeastern Nebraska; this fall, at least 14 individuals were reported north and west of this expected range; outliers were found in Knox, Hall, and Chase (fide WRS). Blue-gray Gnatcatchers lingered into November in Kansas and Oklahoma with singles in Harvey, KS 8 Nov (KP), Douglas, KS 19 Nov (GL), and Cleveland, OK 2 Nov (TKu). A Townsend’s Solitaire arrived early in Sioux, NE 25 Aug (SM), and another was unexpectedly southeast in Osborne, KS 22 Oct (HA). A Wood Thrush was rather west in Adams, NE 5 Oct (PD). A Curve-billed Thrasher in Clark, KS was east of its southwest Kansas range 9 Aug (HA), and a continuing individual further north than usual in Cheyenne, KS was last reported 13 Oct (MK, m.ob.). Sage Thrashers wandered east to Cheyenne, KS 13 Oct (fide CO) and Hamilton, KS 23 Sep (TE, RW). Only 2 Bohemian Waxwings were reported, both in unexpected locations: an individual was in Wayne, NE 9 & 24 Nov (EBr, LBr), and one was in Scott, KS 22 Nov (TC). The 12 Sprague’s Pipits in Lancaster, NE 16 Oct (LE) is—these days—a good count.

Finch presence this season was a mixed bag: some irruptive species were absent, while others were prevalent. No Common Redpolls were reported; just two Evening Grosbeaks, in Scotts Bluff 12 Nov (SM), and only 5 Purple Finches, all in Nebraska (fide WRS), were located. 8 White-winged Crossbills, not regularly recorded, were found in Wayne, NE on the exceptionally early date of 17 Sep (EBr, LBr, photo). Cassin’s Finch is a rare and erratic, though annual, winter visitor. There were 8 Nebraska reports of this species, involving 15 birds; all these were from Scotts Bluff and Kimball 16 Sep—12 Oct (fide WRS). Red Crossbill was ubiquitous in Nebraska, with at least 120 reports statewide; high counts were 69 in Scotts Bluff 3 Aug (KD), 120 in Sioux 19 Oct (SM), and 50 east to Douglas 26 Oct (JR, m. ob.). Most Red Crossbills identified to type were of the expected Type 2 Ponderosa Pine Crossbill, but recordings were made of Type 4 Douglas Fir Crossbill, surprisingly far east in Douglas, NE 4 & 26 Oct (SMa, JR).  An adult Red Crossbill was feeding nestlings in Dawes, NE 31 Aug (SB). The only Red Crossbills reported in the region outside Nebraska were 2 in Shawnee, KS 27 Nov (DAl). A Pine Siskin appeared early in Pratt, KS 1 Aug (MR). Lesser Goldfinch continues to expand its range and seasonal occurrence in the region: 14, rather northern, were in Banner, NE 3 Sep (JGJ); singles were found in Sherman and Cheyenne, KS 3 Aug (HA, DL); one in Logan, KS 24 Nov (KC, MG, ML) was late; and one in Riley, KS through 22 Aug (CL) was relatively eastern. Another Lesser Goldfinch in Oklahoma, OK 30 Nov (SD) may winter.

Snow Bunting through Dickcissel

Only 6 Snow Buntings had arrived by the end of the fall period—5 at 4 Nebraska locations 1—30 Nov (fide WRS), and one quite far south at Quivira 9 Nov (HA). The collection of late sparrows includes: single Grasshoppers in Saunders, NE 23 Oct (EW) and Saline, KS 5 Nov (KK); 6 Lark Sparrows in Gage, NE 24 Oct (SQ); Chipping Sparrows in Hall, NE (2 individuals) 16 Nov (RF) and in Sheridan, NE 17 Nov (MB, EBr) and Lancaster, NE 17 Nov (MU); and single Field Sparrows in Lancaster, NE 26 Nov (LE) and Sarpy, NE 27 Nov (WP, JKe). A Dark-eyed (“Oregon”) Junco in Dawes, NE 7 Sep (KD) was early. A rare Golden-crowned Sparrow was found in Russell, KS 26 Oct—1 Nov (DK). Nelson’s Sparrows were noted at Red Slough 14 Sep (DDr), and another, rather late, was in Lancaster, NE 26 Oct (KG). Baird’s Sparrow is difficult to find in fall migration, but one was located in Morton, KS 31 Aug (MG, m. ob.). Two other Morton, KS finds were a Canyon Towhee 1 Sep (DB, m. ob.) and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow 21 Sep-27 Nov (MN). Green-tailed Towhee is a rare migrant to the western areas of this region; 6 were in Kimball 15-16 Sep (PR, LE), and singles were in Stanton, KS 9 Oct (LL) and Finney, KS 22 Sep (SS). An Eastern Towhee was reported notably west in Thomas, KS 22 Sep (HA, TE, RW). Late Yellow-breasted Chats were in Cleveland, OK 6 Oct (TKu) and Oklahoma, OK 15 Oct (SK). Late orioles were also recorded: an Orchard in Oklahoma, OK 3 Oct (JW), and  several Baltimore Orioles—one in Ford, KS 23 Oct (CMc), two in Washington, OK 2 Oct (MD), and 5 in Oklahoma, OK 3 Oct (JW). Two Bullock’s Orioles in the McConaughy area 10 Aug (SM) were notably east.


Golden-winged Warbler, rare in the region, was noted in Sarpy, NE 31 Aug (PS) and 4—5 Sep (L&BP), with another, rather late, 24 Sep (L&BP); individuals in Ellsworth, KS 7 Sep (DK), and in Douglas, KS 8 Sep (MZ) were westerly. Only 2 Blue-winged Warblers were reported this fall: one in Lancaster, NE 1 Sep (JGJ), and the other in Linn, KS 26 Sep (MM). Swainson’s Warbler breeds in McCurtain, OK, and was recorded until 22 Sep (HH). Orange-crowned Warblers arrived early in Kimball, NE 18 Aug (SM), Leavenworth, KS 1 Sep (GP), and Douglas, KS 1 Sep (fide CO); one in Douglas, NE 20 Nov (AG, NR) was quite late. A Nashville Warbler in Kimball, NE 18 Aug (SM) was early, and late dates came from Hefner 1 Nov (SD, GHu) and Oklahoma, OK 9 Nov (BM). A Virginia’s Warbler, rare, was in Dawes, NE 25 Aug (SM). An immature female Mourning Warbler in Lincoln, NE 2 Sep (SM) was quite west. A Common Yellowthroat lingered in Lancaster, NE 24 Nov (KS). A Hooded Warbler in Dundy 14 Sep (SM, DE) was notably late and west. An early American Redstart was in Colfax, NE 3 Aug (CD), and one in Tulsa, OK 14—15 Oct (ZP) was late. A male Cape May Warbler, a regional rarity, was in Douglas, NE 24 Aug (JR). Late Northern Parulas were in Lancaster, NE 7 Oct (JSS), Johnson, KS 15 Oct (TS), and McCurtain, OK 12 Oct (EP). The only Magnolia Warblers reported were in Payne, OK 25 Sep (LN) and, a late date as well, in Washington, OK 9 Oct (MPe, HY). A Bay-breasted Warbler in Washington, OK 26 Aug (MD) was one of few fall records for Oklahoma, and another was in Jefferson, KS 2 Sep (T&SM). An exceptionally late Blackburnian Warbler was in Pontotoc, OK 17 Nov (DW); one was found far west in Scotts Bluff, NE 6 Oct (KD).

Yellow Warblers in Tulsa, OK 3 Oct (ZP), and Hefner 10 Oct (BD), were late. Late also was the Chestnut-sided Warbler in Tulsa, OK 3 Oct (ZP); a Chestnut-sided in Kimball, NE 3 Sep (JGJ), was notably west. Blackpoll Warbler is scarce during fall in the region; one was recorded in Sarpy 2 Sep (SKr). Black-throated Blue Warbler is not found annually in the region; this season, individuals were reported from Douglas, NE 7 Sep (MJ), Lancaster, NE 25 Sep (SB), and two birds, also a bit late and westerly, were found in Finney, KS (SS) 9 Oct. Pine Warblers were in Kingman, KS 23 Sep (KMc, MP, CS) and at McConaughy 17 Nov (SM). A Yellow-throated Warbler in Adair, OK 9 Oct (PK) was late, and a Black-throated Green Warbler in Wyandotte, KS 18 Aug (SSe, LS) was early. This fall, an unexpected influx of Canada Warbler—considered regionally rare—occurred. 33 reports involved 35 individuals (fide WRS); the late date of these was 12 Oct in Dakota, NE (BFH). A Canada Warbler in Comanche, OK 6 Oct (TA) was also late. Hepatic Tanager is a regional rarity. A male was in Cimarron, OK 29 Sep (JAG). Two Summer Tanagers in Knox, NE 11 Aug (MB, EBr, DH) were at the northern edge of their Nebraska range. A Western Tanager in Gove, KS 14 Nov (CF) was late and easterly; conversely, a Rose breasted Grosbeak was notably west in Sioux, NE 24 Aug (SM). Late Blue Grosbeaks were in Oklahoma, OK 3 Oct (JW) and 12 Oct (SD, GHu, BM), and late Indigo Buntings were in Tulsa, OK 2 Nov (ZP, TM) and McCurtain, OK 6 Nov (DA). A Painted Bunting, west of its expected Kansas range, was in Smith, KS 18 Aug (HA). Finally, a Dickcissel in Tulsa, OK 7 Nov (ZP, BBe) completes the list of exceptionally late passerines that were noted in the region this fall.

Report processed by Alison Világ, 22 Oct 2020.

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Fall 2019
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.