Southern Great Plains: Spring 2017

1 Mar—31 May 2017

Joseph A. Grzybowski, Oklahoma

W. Ross Silcock, Nebraska

Recommended citation: Grzybowski, J. A. and Silcock, W. R. 2020. Spring 2017: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds

This season, the region had numerous eastern species notably west, along with numerous western species notably east. Within this was the continuing pattern of eastern woodland species expanding northwest. As in recent years, spring arrivals were early, though perhaps less so than in some recent years. Certain species did depart the region very early this year, for example Snow Bunting in Nebraska—none were reported in early March. Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Mountain Plover numbers were dismally low, and Sprague’s Pipit was very scarce this season; these trends inspire concern.


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms W.M.A., Barton, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman, OK); McConaughy (L. McConaughy Res., Keith, NE); Quivira (Quivira N.W.R., Stafford, KS); Red Slough (Red Slough W.M.A., McCurtain, OK).

Contributors (sub regional editors in boldface)

NEBRASKA:  Noah Arthur, Wendy Becker, Lautine Blankenau (LBl), Aaron Brees (ABr), Mark Brogie (MBr), Lori Brummer (LBr), Joan Campbell (JCm), Michael Cerizo (MCe), Lily C. Cornhusker, Colin Croft (CCt), Kathy DeLara, Patrice Domeischel, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Larry Einemann, William Flack, Andrew Furman, Tom Gannon, John F. Gatchet, Jerry Gieseking (JGi), Justin Hill (JHi), Eric Hough, Joe Gubanyi, Mace Hack, Daniel Horton (DHo), Dylan Hubl (DHu), Esa Jarvi, Jan Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Karen Kader, William Kaempfer, Steve Kruse, John Kvarnback (JKv), Lorraine Lanning (LLa), John Manning (JMa), Robert Manning (RMa), Sam Manning (SMa), Jake Mohlmann (JMo), Steve Morris, Regina McNulty (RMc), David Mehlman, Ken & Helen Ostermiller (K&HO), Brian Peterson, Gabriel Poling (GPo), Edward Raynor (ERa), Justin Rink, Gary Roberts, Paul Roisen (PRo), Rick Sammons (RSa), Dave Sandahl (DSa), John Schukman (JSc), Shari Schwartz (SSc), Dominic Sherony (DSh), W. Ross Silcock, Ruth Stearns (RSt), Barbara Straus (BSt), Moni Usasz, Matthew and Cynthia Van Den Broeke (M&CV)

Contributors (cont.)

Nick Varvel (NVa), Brad Walker (BWa), T. J. Walker, Kendall Watkins, Don & Marion Weidemann (D&MW), Bob Willison (BWi), Michael Willison.  KANSAS: Danny Akers (DAk), Henry Armknecht, Michael Bader, Roger Boyd, Meleia Burnett (MBu), Alice Boyle, Andrew Burnett (ABu), Ted Cable, Kathy Carroll, Rebecca Crofton, Kelli Egbert, Tom Ewert, William Flack, Matt Gearheart, Malcom Gold (MGo), Kevin Groeneweg, Richard Hall, Eric Hough, Pete Janzen, Donnie Kazmaier, (DKa), Dave Klema, Bill Langley, Dan Larson, Jonathan Lautenbach, Sherry Leonardo, Jim Malcom (JMm), John Mallery (JM), Mick McHugh (MMH), Andrew Miller, Jay Miller (JMl), Joseph Miller (JMi), Graham Montgomery, Jo-Ann Moore (JAM), Sue Newland, Chuck Otte, Jaye Otte, Diane Persons (DPe), Mike Rader, Robert Reeder, Brett Sandercock (BSa), Scott Seltman, Tom & Sara Shane (T&SS), Kylee Sharp, M.W. Stoakes, Maulik Trivedi (MTv), Curtis Van Boening (CVB), Brian Voorhees, David Wiggins (DWg), David Williams, Rodney Wright, Suntesha Wustrack, Eugene Young.  OKLAHOMA:  Bill Adams, Justin Agan (JAg), John Albright (JAl), John Ault (JAu), David Arbour, Sandy Berger, Richard Burn (RBu), Bill Carrell, Cameron Carver (CCa), Timothy Cloninger (TCl), Paul Cook, Cameron Cox (CCo), Bill Diffin, Fillmore Dryden (FDr), Josh Englebert (JEn), Andy Feldt (AFe), Emily Hjalmarson (EHj), Joseph A. Grzybowski, Dick Gunn (DGu), Debra Halter (DHa), Ford Hendershot (FHe), Glen Hensley (GHe), Todd Humphrey (THu), John Hurd (JHu), Mitchell Jarrett (MJr), Michael Jordan (MJd), Mary Johnson (MJo), Shawn Johnson (SJo), Matt Jung, Tomasz Kudor (TKu), Nathan Kuhnert (NKu), Tony Leukering, Scott Loss (SLo), Charles Lyon (CLy), Larry Mays, Cindy McIntyre (CMc), Chris Medrano (CMe), Kurt Meisenzahl, Steve & Sue Metz (S&SM), Terry Mitchell, Gwen Moore (GMo), Roy Neher (RNe), Jack Olson (JOl), Daron Patterson (DPa), Mark Peterson (MPe), Zach Poland, John Polo, Elizabeth & Tim Pratt (E&TP), Paul Ribitzki (PRi), Loraine Richmond (LRi), Dan Robinson (DRo), Jeremy Ross (JRs), Heather Shaffery, Jana Singletary, Josh Smith (JSm), Roger Smith (RSm), Brian Stufflebeam (BSb), John Tharp (JTh), Lou Truex, Lou & Mary Truex (L&MT), Nadine Varner, Mike Weber (MWe), Doug Wood (DWo), Jimmy Woodard, Dave Woodson (DWn), Rachel Wrenn (RWr).

Whistling-Ducks through Cranes

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck numbers continue to increase in the southern region; 36 were reported in Oklahoma beginning 27 Mar (DA), and 40 were in Kansas from 18 Apr (EH); 2 were north to Saunders, NE 15 Apr (RMa, m.ob.). Fulvous Whistling-Duck is a regional rarity; 3-4 were at Hackberry Flat 15—31 May (L&MT, m.ob.). Huge numbers of Snow Geese were recorded in Nebraska—at least 500,000 were in Lancaster 2 Mar (LE), and a “massive flock” 0.25 mile wide and 1 mile long was over Buffalo the same day (SM). A blue-morph Ross’s Goose, exceptional anywhere, was in central Nebraska 17 Mar (ABr). Buffalo, NE hosted 2000 Ross’s 14—15 Mar (K&HO). A late Ross’s was at Hackberry Flat 15—22 Apr (L&MT, m.ob.), and a Snow X Ross’s hybrid was in Texas, OK 17 Feb (BC). Lingering Oklahoma Cackling Geese were in Texas 25 May (TL) and Cimarron 28 May (JSm). There were 3 reports of Tundra Swan, a rare regional visitor: in Buffalo, NE 10—26 Mar (KD, m.ob.), a surprising 7 in Seward, NE 4 Apr (MU, JG), and 4 at Cheyenne Bottoms 6 Apr, one staying until 22 Apr (MB). Easterly Cinnamon Teal were in all regional states 17 Mar—9 Apr (fide WRS, CO, JAG). A Mottled Duck, regional rarity, was photographed at Hackberry Flat 22 May (LT, KM, CLy). Among lingering divers were Canvasbacks in Tillman, OK 27—31 May (DHa, MJ) and Nemaha, NE 19 May (GR), a Ring-necked Duck in Canadian, OK 27 May (BD), a Bufflehead in Texas, OK 19 May (TL), and Common Goldeneyes in Pawnee, OK 24 May (JAg) and at McConaughy 12 May (MW, BWi, JFG). Scoters are noteworthy in the region; this season Surfs were in Douglas, KS 5 Mar (SN), Marion, KS 31 Mar (PJ, TE, KG), and Jefferson, OK 23—24 Mar (2 birds; S&SM, DWn); White-winged Scoters were in Russell, KS 1 Apr (MR) and Geary, KS 23 Apr (JO, CO). Long-tailed Ducks, also noteworthy, were found in Pawnee, OK 4 Mar (GMo), Riley, KS 19—24 Mar (BSa), Russell, KS 12—12 Mar (3 birds; PJ, KS, TE, BL), and Douglas, KS 3—20 Mar (JAM).  Hooded Merganser is a rare breeder in the eastern region; a female and 2 young were in Linn, KS 8 May (DW). A Common Merganser lingered in Woodward, OK to 5 May (DPa), and so did 7 Red-breasted Mergansers 18—30 May in all regional states (JAG, CO, WRS).

A Scaled Quail in Custer, OK 11 May (JOl) was outside its expected range. A Horned Grebe in Riley, KS 28 May (EH) was unseasonable. The only Red-necked Grebe reported was a molting individual at McConaughy 26 Mar (JGJ). Scattered reports of Inca Dove continue in southern Oklahoma; the furthest north were in Caddo 21 Mar (E&TP). White-winged Doves towards their northern range limit were in Smith, KS 14 May (2 birds; MR). Nebraska had 3 reports of the now-scarce Black-billed Cuckoo, all in the east 19—21 May (BWa, BSt, LE). Lesser Nighthawk is a regional rarity; one was in Cimarron, OK 14 May (TL). A Common Poorwill in Dundy 8 Apr (EH) was record-early for Nebraska; another in Russell, KS 5 Apr (MR) was also early. An Eastern Whip-poor-will calling in northeast Cherry, NE 26 May (DHo) was the westernmost record in the Niobrara River Valley. Black-chinned Hummingbird is extending beyond its southwestern Oklahoma range; reports came from Garfield, OK 26 Apr (fide JAG), Logan, OK 4—28 Apr (ZP), Oklahoma, OK 13 & 17 May (BSb, LM), and Finney, KS 20 Apr (T&SS); one in Comanche, OK 31 Mar (CMc) was early. A Broad-billed Hummingbird in McCintosh, OK 23-28 Mar (LRi, m.ob.), was an exceptional extralimital find.

A Black Rail was calling at Quivira 8 Apr (AM), a regular outpost for the species in the region. King Rails, regular only at Red Slough, southeast Oklahoma—and reduced elsewhere by recent droughts—appeared at Hackberry Flat (up to 5 birds) 6 Apr—23 May (L&MT, m.ob.), with 5 also in Neosho, KS 21 May (ABu). 4 flightless Virginia Rail chicks were found in Douglas, KS 23 May (DL), constituting a rare documented breeding for the state. A Sora in Johnston, OK 1 Mar (DWo) likely wintered; another in Lancaster, NE 1—7 Apr (SK) was record early for the state. Purple Gallinule, another Red Slough specialty, arrived early this season; 3 were present by 17 Apr (MWe). Outside Red Slough, Common Gallinules have become erratic; this season, up to 4 birds were at Hackberry Flat 14 Mar—29 May (DA, RSm) and Neosho, KS 21 May (ABu), and singles were in Linn, KS 21 May (MGo, JM) and Douglas, KS 9—31 May (MTv). Late Sandhill Cranes were in Clark, KS 21 May (EH), York, NE 21 May (WK), and Clay, NE 22 May (DHu); 2 in Rock, NE 21 May (JSc) may have bred locally. Groups of 4-8 Whooping Cranes passed through Kansas 26 Mar—10 Apr (fide CO).

Stilts through Anhinga

7 Black-necked Stilts, rare in the region’s eastern areas, were reported from 4 eastern Nebraska sites 7—16 May (fide WRS); one was also in Payne, OK 30 Apr (JAg). An American Avocet in Sheridan, NE 18 Mar (NVa) was exceptionally early. A flock of 40 Black-bellied Plovers in Marion, KS 21 May (PJ, CVB) was a good count. American Golden-Plover showed strongly in Nebraska 9 Apr—12 May; the high count of 1003 came from Seward 11 Apr (JGJ, m.ob.). Snowy Plovers arrived very early—9 Mar—at Cheyenne Bottoms (8 birds; MR). Piping Plover is a rare migrant in most of the region; 1-2 were in Washington, OK 20—21 Apr (MPe, JEn). Mountain Plovers in the region’s western limits were found in Cimarron, OK 9 Apr (MJo) and Kimball, NE 24 Apr—14 May (5 birds; ERa, MW, BWi, JFG). Whimbrel are a rare migrant. 12, early, were recorded at McConaughy 26 Apr (JGJ), and the region produced 7 additional reports from all 3 states 11—20 May (fide WRS, CO, JAG). 3 Long-billed Curlews at Hackberry Flat 22 May (LT, KM, DWo) were late. From 8—19 May, eastern Nebraska had 6 reports of 9 Ruddy Turnstones. Red Knot is exceptional in spring; 2 were in Alfalfa, OK 15 May (GHe), and another was at Quivira 30 May (MR). A Little Stint was reported from Quivira 30 Apr (EY fide CO); while not photographed, the sighting was written up and submitted to the Kansas Bird Records Committee, and was accepted in hypothetical status. A Sanderling at Hackberry Flat 20 Apr (L&MT), a Baird’s Sandpiper in Dodge, NE 10 Mar (RSa; photo), a Least Sandpiper in Sumner, KS 4 Mar (SW), and a Pectoral Sandpiper at Red Slough 3 Mar (FHe) were all early. Buff-breasted Sandpipers were not numerous in Oklahoma this spring; 32 were in McClain 7 May (EHj), and 30 in Tulsa 29 Apr (BC) were somewhat early. There was just one substantiated report of Western Sandpiper—a molting bird at McConaughy 29 Apr (JKv).

Short-billed Dowitchers typically migrate through the region during a narrow window in mid-May. Reports falling outside that were an early sighting in Lincoln, NE 28 Apr (DSh), and a late date in Holt, NE 29 May (PRo). 1700 Long-billed Dowitchers at Hackberry Flat 31 Mar (L&MT) was a good count, and 2 were early in Sumner, KS 4 Mar (SW). A Spotted Sandpiper in Chase, KS 14 Mar (EH) was early. Solitary Sandpipers in Custer, NE 28 May (TJW) and Lancaster, NE 30 May (LE) were late. A Willet at Hackberry Flat 23 Mar (MJr, MJd) was exceptionally early, while 1-2 in Woodward, OK 29—30 May (SJo, DPa) were unexpectedly late. All 3 states in the region provided a cumulative 6 reports of easterly Red-necked Phalaropes from 5—30 May this season (fide WRS, CO, JAG); this species is becoming rarer in the southeastern areas, so records from Neosho, KS 5 May (ABu), Tulsa, OK 20 May (THu), and Sequoyah, OK 24 May (SB) were of particular note.

An adult Little Gull was an unexpected surprise in Oklahoma, OK 6 Apr (BD). Single Laughing Gulls, Gulf Coast vagrants, were reported in Cimarron, OK 21 May (CLy) and Chase, NE 12—13 May (MW, BWi, JFG). 8 California Gulls were found throughout all 3 states this season from 27 Feb—27 May (fide WRS, CO, JAG). 4 Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls in NE 10 Mar—8 Apr (fide WRS) were the only reported this spring; one Iceland Gull at McConaughy 26 Mar (JGJ, LLa) sufficiently pale to be within the Kumlien’s range (JGJ). Lesser Black-backed Gull is now a regular migrant in the region; the high count, comprised of different-aged birds, was 5 at McConaughy 4 Apr (NA). A westerly Lesser Black-backed at Kearny, KS was noteworthy (HA). A late Glaucous Gull was at McConaughy 8 Apr (WB, m.ob.). Great Black-backed Gulls are almost annual in Nebraska; one was in Garfield 25 Mar (RMc; photo). A Red-throated Loon was in Wyandotte, KS 11 Apr (BV), and a Pacific Loon was in Russell, KS 1 Apr (MR). Late Common Loons, including 3 in Oklahoma 13 May (TCl, BSB), were distributed across 4 Oklahoma counties 13—29 May (fide JAG). Neotropic Cormorants arrived early, 1-4 Mar, in Payne, OK and Tulsa, OK (fide JAG), and a report from Lancaster, NE 21 Mar—14 May (LE, m.ob.) was both early and northerly; so was one at McConaughy 4 Apr (NA). A Neotropic in Texas, OK 15 May (TL, JSm) was westerly. An Anhinga at Red Slough 7 Mar (DA) was early; numbers there increased to 19 by 28 Mar (DA).

Bitterns through Falcons

3 Least Bitterns at Red Slough 10 Apr (DA) were early; one in Payne, OK 20 May (SLo) was a rare find for the area. The only Little Blue Heron for Nebraska was in Hall 11 May (DM, MH).  An exceptionally northerly Tricolored Heron was in Reno, KS 16 May (JMi); another northerly individual was in Garfield, OK 27 Apr (JW). A dark morph Reddish Egret at Quivira 31 May (JMl), was only about the 3rd record for Kansas. White Ibis is a Red Slough specialty in the region. This season, they arrived there 4 Apr (4 individuals), and numbers increased to an impressive 295 by 27 Apr (DA). Glossy Ibis is now a scarce—but expected—migrant in the region; this season delivered 11 reports. The first of these was 16 Apr at Hackberry Flat (LT, DWo), and more northerly records were individuals in Platte 8 May (SMa; photo) and Sheridan 17 May (MW, BWi, JFG). At least 6 hybrid Glossy X White-faced Ibises were found in 4 Oklahoma counties 22 Apr—26 May (fide JAG). A Roseate Spoonbill on 30 May at Red Slough (DA) was the first report of that species’ summer wanderings. A northerly Black Vulture was in Linn, KS 31 Mar (MMH).

Early Ospreys were reported on 17 Mar from Stephens, OK (LM) and Douglas, NE (JMo). White-tailed Kite is a less-than-annual visitor to the region; this season produced two records: in Tillman, OK 11 Mar (CLy), and in Kiowa, KS 1—2 Apr (RH). A vagrant, immature Sharp-shinned Hawk was in Lancaster, NE 28 May (MW). 2 Mississippi Kites in Omaha, NE 8—9 May (SMa) were near their range limits; one was seen briefly in Nemaha 20 May (PRo). A lingering Harris’s Hawk in Oklahoma, OK was noted 1 Mar (PRi); it was captured by a falconer, and though later released not observed again. Westerly Broad-winged Hawks in Nebraska continue to increase; this spring there were 4 reports from the Panhandle (fide WRS). A Red-shouldered Hawk in Jewell, KS 1 May (DL) was also westerly. Ferruginous Hawks in Neosho, KS 22 Mar (ABu) and Butler, KS 21 Mar (HA) and 11 Apr (fide CO) were easterly. A Western Screech-Owl heard 8-9 May in Morton, KS, (DAk, JMm) was at its range’s eastern limit. Burrowing Owls in Nebraska in Clay 15 May (SK) and Buffalo 12 May (AF) were easterly. Barred Owls pushing northwestward up riparian corridors were in York, NE 20 Apr (WF) and Seward, NE 6 Apr (GPo). A pair of Long-eared Owls nested in Loup, NE; they were first noted 19 Mar (PD, m.ob.). Long-eared Owls are always noteworthy in Oklahoma. Up to 6 were in Jefferson 16—24 Mar (BA, DWn), and another was noted in Texas, OK 2 Apr (MJo). Northern Saw-whet Owls become vocal in Mar; in Kansas, calling birds were noted in Jefferson 4 Mar and Decatur 11 Mar (WF). A Lewis’s Woodpecker in Sioux NE 25 May (LCC) was the only reported this season. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are another species expanding up riparian corridors; a nest was noted in Hooker, NE 31 May (DSa). A Williamson’s Sapsucker in Russell, KS 18—25 Mar (MG, JM, RR, RW) was about the 6th state record. Late Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were in Riley, KS (AB) and Kiowa, KS (JL) on 13 May. Merlins in Kiowa, KS 2 May (JL) and Douglas, KS 7 May (RB, KS) were late, as was a Peregrine Falcon at Red Slough 26 May (DA). Another Peregrine in Harper, KS 8 Mar (SS) was early and may have wintered.

Wood-Pewees through Pipits

A Western Wood-Pewee in Dawes, NE 3 May (TJW) was early, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee in Texas, OK 13 May (TL) was westerly. Alder Flycatchers in Pratt, KS 24 May (MR) and Cheyenne, KS 27 May (EH) were also westerly. A Willow Flycatcher was in northeastern Cherry, NE 7 May (D&MW) was early. Dusky Flycatchers, regionally more regular in fall than spring, were found in the Nebraska Panhandle in Dundy 13 May and Kimball 15 May; a surprising count of 4 was in Dawes 17 May (MW, BWi, JFG; photos). Black Phoebe, a rare visitor to the western. Oklahoma Panhandle, was noted in Cimarron 18—21 May (RBu, JAl).  Say’s Phoebes arrived early in all 3 states; one in Kearny, KS on 3 Mar was near record-early (T&SS). A Vermilion Flycatcher on the Johnson/Miami line, KS (KE) was uncommonly northeast; at its only regular site in the western Oklahoma Panhandle, 1-4 were noted in Cimarron 24 Mar—20 May (DRo, JW, CLy). An Ash-throated Flycatcher in Jackson, OK 7 Apr (JAu) was early. Single Great Crested Flycatchers were found west to Texas, OK 21 May (TL) and 29 May (CLy, L&MT). 3 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in Seminole, OK 11 Mar (CCo) and one in Canadian, OK 18 Mar (LM) were early. 2 Scissor-taileds appeared northerly at last year’s Lancaster, NE nest site, but were not observed to breed (fide WRS); another was in Cass, NE 11 May (LBr). A Northern Shrike was in Lancaster, NE 1 Apr (TG) was late. Almost all Black-capped Vireo reports in Oklahoma now come from Comanche, but one appeared at its northernmost outpost in Blaine, OK on 8 Apr and by 13 May, 13 were counted present (JAG, JRs). A White-eyed Vireo was both early and westerly in Jefferson, OK 18 Mar (JW, NV). Nebraska’s first Panhandle record of Blue-headed Vireo was in Sioux 13 May (JFG, MW, BWi; photo). Plumbeous Vireo is a rare migrant in western Oklahoma and Kansas; one was in Cimarron, OK 20 May (CLy) and 2 were in Morton, KS 6 May (TC, DWg). Philadelphia Vireo is rare in Oklahoma, occurring mainly in the east; so individuals in Blaine 3 May (JAG, JRs) Cleveland 8 May (JAG) were notable.

Several Black-billed Magpies were noted in Cimarron, OK 25 Apr—20 May (JW, BC, CLy); numbers there remain much reduced from historical levels. Chihuahuan Ravens are reentering extreme southwestern Oklahoma; 1-3 birds were reported from Greer 1 Apr (JHu), Harmon 12 Mar (JAG), Jackson 12 Mar (JAG), 15 Apr (CLy, KM) and 7 May (JW), and Tillman 29 May (JAG). Numbers of Chihuahuan Ravens in Kansas are low and restricted to the state’s southwest reaches; singles were in Stanton 7 Apr (HA) and Stevens 9 May (DL). In Kansas, Common Ravens are encroaching onto the plains: in Morton, 2 were found 13 Mar (KC, DPe), with a single 9 May (JMm); in Stanton, 2 were found 13 Mar (KC, DPe). A Purple Martin arrived early in Neosho, KS 3 Mar (MBu), and another in Hamilton, KS 7 Apr (HA) was westerly. A Tree Swallow in Johnson, KS 2 Mar (JM), was also early. Tree Swallow concentrations in Nebraska this spring were record high; the largest tallies were 2000 in Saunders 28 Apr (JGJ) and 1500 in Lancaster 27 Apr (MW). A Violet-green Swallow in Scotts Bluff, NE 15 Apr (KD) was early, as was a Cliff Swallow in Miami, KS 25 Mar (MG, SL, MWS). A Cave Swallow in a colony of Cliffs in Harper, KS 25 May (SS) was unexpected, and a single Cave Swallow was in Cleveland, OK (JTh) was early. 2 Barn Swallows in Tulsa 4 Mar (BC) were early; 7 followed the next day (TM), and 2 were in Cleveland 5 Mar (JAu). A Red-breasted Nuthatch lingered in Lancaster, southeastern Nebraska until 31 May (RSt). Pygmy Nuthatches nested again at a relatively new site in Cherry NE, that was first used in 2014; adults carrying food were noted 29 May (DHo).

High counts of House Wrens came from Washington, NE 6 May (300 individuals; BP) and Sarpy 7 May (100 individuals; BSt). An early House Wren was in Rush, KS 21 Mar (DKa). Sedge Wrens in Wheeler, NE 24 May (JJ) and Hackberry Flat 16 Apr (LT, DWo) were westerly. A late Ruby-crowned Kinglet was in Kimball, NE 27 May (BP). A Western Bluebird, regionally rare, was in Cimarron, OK 15 Mar (DRo); this is a seeming migration window for the species. Only 6 Veeries, rare migrants, were reported: 4 from Washington, OK 1 & 3 May (MPe), Richardson, NE 20 May (JGJ) and Nemaha, NE 20 May (PRo); the remaining 2, notably west, were reported on 13 May in Cleveland, OK (JTh) and Payne, OK (JP). A Gray-cheeked Thrush in Cass, NE 27 Apr (SSc) was early. 1-2 Wood Thrushes, notably west, were in Cleveland 8 May, and remained through the period (NKu, m.ob.). Nebraska’s 10th Curve-billed Thrasher was in Garden 14 May (KMD; photo, recording). A Sage Thrasher in Phillips, KS 9 Mar (PJ), was northeasterly. An American Pipit in Texas, OK 19 May (CLy) was quite late. The only report of Sprague’s Pipit was of a late individual in Sequoyah, OK 6 May (FDr).

Finches through Buntings

21 May was a record late date for Purple Finch in Dixon, NE (JHi), and 4 in Buffalo, NE 17 May (KW) were also late. A Lesser Goldfinch in Cleveland, OK 25 Mar (TKu) was late; single green-backed males were at different Scotts Bluff, NE feeders 26 (CCt) & 28 May (BP). No Snow Buntings were reported from Nebraska this season, perhaps, they departed early (fide WRS). A singing towhee in the Eastern/Spotted overlap zone in Scotts Bluff, NE, sounded Eastern (KD). A Chipping Sparrow 17 Mar in Lancaster, NE (M&CV) and a Savannah there 9 Mar (EJ) were both early. 3 Lark Buntings were in Buffalo, NE 8 May (AF) were easterly. Baird’s Sparrows are rarely detected, so one documented in Kiowa, KS 2 May (JL, recording) was notable. A Henslow’s Sparrow in Murray, OK 3 Mar (CCa) was unexpected. 62 Fox Sparrows at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy, NE 1 Apr eclipsed the previous record spring count (JR). Lincoln’s Sparrows on 4 Mar in Nebraska’s Merrick (GR), and Lancaster (MW), and in Dundy 11 Mar (WK) may have wintered.  The wintering Golden-crowned Sparrow in Knox, NE was last seen 11 May, having stayed 131 days (MBr). 3 additional Golden-crowneds were reported this spring: one, far southeast, was in Cleveland, OK 12 Apr—4 May (RNe); the others were in Rooks, KS 25 Apr (RC) and Ellsworth, KS 6 Mar (DK). Easterly “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Juncos were in Hall, NE 5 Apr (JCm) and Buffalo, NE 14 Mar (K&HO); the wintering bird in Knox was last seen 20 Mar (SMa, JMa). 2 Rusty Blackbirds in Merrick, NE 4 Mar (GR) were both westerly and early for the location.

A Worm-eating Warbler in Douglas, NE 10 May (KK) was northerly; one in Morton, KS 4 May (TC, DWg) was westerly. Virginia’s Warbler is somewhat regular in extreme southwestern KS, but one in Sheridan, KS 7 May (JMm) was outside that. Golden-winged Warblers were in Sequoyah 2 May (SB) and Tulsa 21 May (BC), and a westerly Golden-winged was in Buffalo, NE 17 May (KW; photo). A rare, westerly Blue-winged Warbler was in Pontotoc, OK 16 Apr (HS). A westerly Prothonotary Warbler was in Caddo, OK 18 Apr (L&MT). 3 Tennessee Warblers were reported in the Nebraska Panhandle, where they are rare: in Dawes 17 May (MW. BWi, JFG), and 2 in Sheridan 27 May (NVa). Hooded Warblers are more common east of this region; of note were individuals 24 Apr in Washington, OK (MPe), 8 May in Greeley, KS (JMm), and 20 May in Reno, KS (AM).  A substantial count of 60 American Redstarts came from Sarpy, NE 21 May (MW, BWi, JFG). A regionally rare Cape May Warbler was unexpectedly west in Morton, KS 6 May (TC, DWg); the only other report was of one in Douglas, NE 17 May (JR).  Northern Parulas in Dundy, NE 13 May (MW, BWi, JFG) and Texas, OK 21 May (TL) were westerly, and so were Magnolia Warblers in Texas, OK 21 and 23 May (TL). Bay-breasted Warbler is an uncommon migrant in eastern portions of the region. Reports this season came from Douglas, NE 13—15 May (LBl), Tulsa, OK 6 May (TM) and, more exceptionally, Cleveland, OK 7 May (JTh). A Blackburnian Warbler, uncommon even in the eastern region, was quite westerly in Texas, OK 13 May (TL). Chestnut-sided Warbler is rare in central OK; singles were in Cleveland 12 May (MJr) and 13 May (JTh, RWr). A Blackpoll Warbler in Tulsa, OK 20 Apr (JS) was early, and individuals in Texas, OK 14 and 23 May (TL, JSm) were westerly. Black-throated Blue Warbler is a rare spring straggler to the region; 2 were reported in Johnson, KS 25 Apr—1 May (EH) and another was far west in Morton, southwest KS, 9 May (DAk). Palm Warbler is not annual in western Kansas, so one in Morton 5 May (TC, DWg) was notable; another was in Oklahoma, OK 28 Apr (BD). Pine Warblers, resident in eastern Oklahoma, were also in Neosho, KS 23 Apr (ABu), Otoe, NE 18 Apr (JGi), Lancaster, NE 25—26 Mar (M&CV), and Sarpy, NE 11 May (MCe; photo).Yellow-throated Warblers arrived early in Cleveland, OK 20 Mar (DGu) and were westerly in Finney, KS 12 May (T&SS).  Canada Warblers in Rock, NE 31 May (PRo) and Cleveland, OK 21 May (JTh) were westerly. A Painted Redstart in Hodgeman, KS 9 Apr (GM; photo) was the third record—for both Kansas and the region.

A Scarlet Tanager in Noble, OK 3 May (KSh) was westerly, and a male Western Tanager in Finney 22 May (T&SS) was easterly. Pyrrhuloxia occurs occasionally in extreme southwestern Oklahoma; one, outside that region, was in Hackberry Flat 5—6 May (BD, JW, m.ob.). Rose-breasted Grosbeak is scarce in the region’s western limits; notable reports came from Texas, OK 15 & 19 May (TL, JSm, CLy), and from Cimarron, OK 25 May (TL). Conversely, easterly Black-headed Grosbeaks were in Lancaster, NE 20 May (MW, BWi), Leavenworth, KS 1 May (KC), Cleveland, OK 4 May (AFe, DGu, PC), and Tulsa, OK 3 May (CMe). 11 easterly Lazuli Buntings were reported from 26 Apr—21 May this spring (fide WRS, CO, JAG).  Finally, an Indigo Bunting in Sioux, NE 29 May (BP) was westerly.

Report processed by Alison Világ, 1 Nov 2020

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Spring 2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.