Southern Great Plains: Spring 2021

Spring 2021: 1 Mar–31 May

Joseph A. Grzybowski

W. Ross Silcock

Recommended citation:

Grzybowski, J.A., and W.R. Silcock. 2022. Spring 2021: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds.

Spring 2021 exemplified the continental position of the Southern Great Plains region, where ebbs and sways of eastern and western bird distributions can be captured in incidental detections by the birder pool. Eastern wood-warblers seemed more prominent than in many years, as did Veery. Some rarer species like Golden-winged, Connecticut and Cape May warblers were more frequently reported, Golden-winged prominently so in eastern Nebraska. 

Recent years have seen increasingly variable weather conditions that are likely interfering with the migration patterns and timing of many species. This season was one following a serious cold-weather event in February with some local populations impacted substantially. There were also some significant heavy hail events during April in Oklahoma. Ebird provides some window into the effects, probably better extracted more clearly in some Bayesian analyses. Nonetheless, birders can recognize some of these impacts “on-the-ground” in their routine field excursions, and some general assessments can be drawn from eBird summary statistics and charts. 

Species wintering further north and leaving earlier are not always noticed, yet evident in what is not present. Such was the case this season for cold-tolerant species such as Common Merganser, Glaucous Gull, Common Redpoll and Snow Bunting. Westward woody encroachment has been drawing some eastern species more and more westward such as Northern Parulas and possibly Louisiana Waterthrushes. If anything can be said about this season, it is that it was an interesting one, with an array of rarer species, some quite exceptional. And not to forget the hybrids distinguished, and to be distinguished.

Sub-regional Compilers

W. Ross Silcock (Nebraska), Chuck Otte (Kansas), Joseph A. Grzybowski (Oklahoma).


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms WMA, Barton Co, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat WMA, Tillman Co, OK); Hefner (L. Hefner, Oklahoma Co., OK); McConaughy (L. McConaughy, Keith Co, NE); Quivira (Quivira NWR, Stafford Co, KS); Rainwater Basin: a series of playas in south-central and southeastern NE; Red Slough (Red Slough WMA, McCurtain Co, OK); Salt Plains (Salt Plains NWR, Alfalfa Co, OK).

Whistling-Ducks through Barrow’s Goldeneye

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continues to increase in numbers, arriving in April, and probing northward this season to Lincoln Co, NE (three birds) 31 May (fide eBird). They were widely distributed to west-central Kansas and Oklahoma with the best tally of 46 in Alfalfa Co, OK 31 May (Curtis Stewart, m. ob.). Fulvous Whistling-Duck is a regional rarity; three were in Cotton Co, OK 30 Apr (Ben Sandstrom) and 4 at Hackberry Flat 7 May (Lou and Mary Truex). The 3200 Cackling Geese, presumed hutchinsii, in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 3 Mar (Steven Mlodinow) was a good tally. May records of Cackling Geese in Oklahoma are unexpected; the latest was one at Hefner 26 May (Bill Diffin). Tardy Trumpeter Swans in the southern region were singles at three different locations in eastern Kansas as late as 27 Apr–9 May (Andrew Burnett, J. Cashman, J.J. and Mark Davis). A Tundra Swan was quite late in Platte Co, NE 19–28 Apr (Caleb Strand, m. ob.).

Following the instigation of hybrid accounts in Birds of Nebraska-Online (, there was a plethora of hybrid waterfowl reports in the state, most photographed, involving multiple genera. Many are expected. Snow x Ross’s Goose hybrids can be difficult to detect; two were reported, 20 Mar in Scotts Bluff Co (Steven Mlodinow) and 28 Mar in Seward Co (Caleb Strand, Sam Manning). More notable hybrids among other waterfowl were a Eurasian Wigeon x American Wigeon in Dakota Co 29 Mar (Bill Huser), an intergeneric American Wigeon x Mallard, first for Nebraska, in Scotts Bluff Co 20 Mar (Steven Mlodinow), an unexpected first state record Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup in Knox Co 13 Apr (Caleb Strand, Ed and Mark Brogie, Bill Huser), and another intergeneric hybrid, a Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser, in Cedar Co 6 Mar (Caleb Strand, Ed Brogie). 

Cinnamon Teal occurs in small numbers eastward in the region, but an amazing 22 (15 males, seven females) were at Red Slough 29 Mar (David Arbour). Eurasian Wigeon is a good find in the region; three were reported—singles in Scott Co, KS 31 Mar (Tom and Sara Shane, m. ob.), at McConaughy 3–10 Apr (Caleb Strand, m. ob.), and in Dakota Co, NE 31 May (Bill Huser). Tardy Aythya in Oklahoma were two Canvasback at Hackberry Flat 1 May (Ben Sandstrom, John Schenck), another in Tulsa Co 8 May (Robert Bowker), and a Ring-necked Duck at Red Slough 18 May (R.J. Baltierra). Also tardy was a Bufflehead at Hefner 23 May (Devin Bosler). Scoters are generally noteworthy. Surf Scoters included one in Burt Co, NE 12–18 Apr (Caleb Strand, m. ob.) and two at each of three Kansas locations 28 Mar–4 May (fide Chuck Otte). White-winged Scoters included three in Nebraska 8 Apr28 May, the last from Garden Co (Kent and Randy Skaggs, Sam Manning) quite late, and one in Oklahoma 24–27 Mar (Bill Diffin, Calvin Rees). The rarest scoter in spring, a Black, was in Dakota Co, NE 31 Mar (Bill Huser). Six Long-tailed Ducks were reported, four in Nebraska through 23 Apr (fide Ross Silcock), one in Atchison Co, KS 24 Apr (Luke Schawe), and one in Canadian Co, OK through 24 Mar (fide Joe Grzybowski). Barrow’s Goldeneye is a rare winter visitor in Nebraska, especially in the east, where a male was in Knox and Cedar Cos 6–29 Mar (Ed Brogie, Caleb Strand, Scott Buss, Barbara Brown). 

Grebes through phalaropes

Red-necked Grebes, a regional rarity, were found at Hefner 31 Mar (Patricia Velte), in Canadian Co, OK 27 Apr (Chad Ellis), two in Johnson Co, KS 5–17 Apr (Aaron Batterbee, Emily Brosnan), and in Lancaster Co, NE 17–24 Apr (Larry Einemann, m. ob.). The 1045 Eared Grebes at Box Butte Reservoir, Dawes Co 25 May (Steven Mlodinow) was a record spring tally for Nebraska. An Eared Grebe in Lancaster Co, NE 11 Mar (Steve Morris) was quite early. A Western Grebe was easterly in Tulsa Co, OK 3 May (Mike and Merry Ludewig). A Clark’s Grebe at McConaughy 3 Apr (Caleb Strand, Ed Brogie, Lee Brogie) was early. Inca Doves re-extending northward were noted in central Oklahoma; singles were in Oklahoma Co 31 Mar (Grace Huffman) and Caddo Co 30 May (Elizabeth & Tim Pratt). Black-billed Cuckoo has become rare in the region, limited mostly to the eastern edge; birds were westerly to Lancaster Co, NE 18 May (Michael Willison), Ellsworth Co, KS 17 May (Dave Klema), and Payne Co, OK 2 May (Mike Yough, m. ob.). Far easterly was a Common Poorwill well-described in Dodge Co, NE 7 May (Don Paseka). An Eastern Whip-poor-will was heard far to the west in Keith Co, NE 16 May by an observer familiar also with calls of Mexican Whip-poor-will (Charles Brown). A pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds was noted westerly in Lincoln Co, NE 23 May (Christine Nelson). 

Black-chinned Hummingbird now ranges routinely to central Oklahoma (fide Joe Grzybowski) and one was in Morton Co, KS 2 May (Brandon Percival, Chris Knight). Broad-tailed Hummingbird is occurring more regularly during spring in the Nebraska Panhandle where seven were reported from three locations this season in Dawes and Scotts Bluff Cos 18–28 May (fide Ross Silcock). An amazing first state record for Nebraska was a Broad-billed Hummingbird, a female, in Lancaster Co 15 May (Caleb Strand, Joel Jorgensen, Michael Willison). Even with Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks expanding in the region, there was only one report of another wetland dependent species, King Rail, away from focal breeding areas at Red Slough and Quivira, that of one in Grady Co, OK 17 May (Caleb McKinney). A Virginia Rail in Dickinson Co, KS 5 Mar (Glenn Caspers) may have wintered there. A Common Gallinule at Red Slough 11 Mar (David Arbour) was early. An also slim showing of Common Gallinules away from Red Slough included two northerly in Clay Co, NE 28 May (Caleb Stand) and Lancaster Co, NE 24–31 May (John Sullivan, m. ob.), and one in Sedgwick Co, KS 9 May (Jeremy Birket). Two Purple Gallinules, a regional rarity, were a bit early at Red Slough 6 Apr (David Arbour). Extraordinary was a second regional record Limpkin at Red Slough 12 Apr (David Arbour), perhaps fitting the push of extralimital records into Texas. 

Two Common Cranes were observed 21 Mar in Kearney Co, NE (Barbara Brown, m. ob.), presumably the same birds seen sporadically as singles 19–27 Mar (fide Ross Silcock) there and in nearby Buffalo Co 10 Mar–6 Apr (Lynette Keeshan, m. ob.). A Whooping Crane in Wagoner Co, OK 17–20 Apr (Zach Poland, m. ob.) was presumed to be the Louisiana radio-tagged bird that has previously wandered into Oklahoma over the past few years. Best tally of Whoopers in their flyway through the region was the 20 at Quivira 25 Mar (fide Mike Rader). Rare in the eastern region, two Black-necked Stilts were in Elk Co, KS 11 Apr (Atcha Nolan, Carolyn Schwab), as many as eight were at Red Slough 29 Mar (David Arbour), and one–two were in Washington Co, OK 25 Apr (Nathan Moses) and 14 May (Melinda Droege). Two American Avocets were early at the Salt Plains 7 Mar (Jacob Crissup, Katie Morgan). A westerly American Golden-Plover was in Logan Co, KS 27 May (Christopher Frick) and one was very early in Otoe Co, NE 8 Mar (Josh Stubbendick). The apparent main push of Piping Plovers in Kansas and Oklahoma this season occurred 21–24 Apr (fide Chuck Otte, Joe Grzybowski) with a broader scatter of migrants at Cheyenne Bottoms 15 Apr–6 May (fide eBird). 

Whimbrel is a rare regional migrant in spring; 60 were reported this season (fide Ross Silcock, Chuck Otte, Joe Grzybowski), including a high-count of 22 at the Salt Plains 2–9 May (Glen Hensley, Curtis Stewart). Rare easterly, single Long-billed Curlews were at Hefner 20 Apr (Steve Stone) and in Tulsa, OK 6–8 May (Mark Peterson, m. ob.). A Red Knot, very rare during spring, was found at the Salt Plains 8 May (Sandy Berger, photo). Formerly much more common, the best count among a diminished array of reports for Buff-breasted Sandpiper was a modest 79 in Garfield Co, OK 12 May (Curtis Stewart). A Solitary Sandpiper in Carter Co, OK 12–19 Mar (Don Pearson) was early. The first migrant Red-necked Phalaropes were one at Quivira 23 Apr (Mike Rader) and two at Cheyenne Bottoms 24 Apr (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant); one southerly at Hackberry 9 May (Lou and Mary Truex) was the only report for Oklahoma this season. 

Gulls through Roseate Spoonbill

Laughing Gull is an annual but rare late spring vagrant in the region; singles were at Cheyenne Bottoms 14 Mar, quite early (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant), in Cleveland Co, OK 4 May (John Tharp, Randy Soto), at Hefner 25 May–1 Jun (Braden Farris, m. ob.), and in Mitchell Co, KS 29 May (Caleb Strand). A report by an experienced observer of a near-adult Western Gull at McConaughy 26 Apr is referred to the Nebraska Bird Records Committee; it would be a first state record, although there are three eBird records on the northeastern Colorado plains (fide Ross Silcock). California Gull is a rare migrant on the Great Plains away from McConaughy; eight were reported, at least one per state, 15 Mar–26 May (fide Ross Silcock, Chuck Otte, Joe Grzybowski). A tardy Herring Gull was in Oklahoma Co, OK 23–25 May (Devin Bosler, Braden Farris, Brian Marra). Continuing from winter was a Herring Gull x Glaucous-winged Gull at McConaughy through 26 Apr (Steven Mlodinow); this intergrade taxon occurs regularly in northeastern Colorado. Iceland (thayeri) Gull, a rare wintering species, was reported 21–23 Mar in Canadian Co, OK (Bill Diffin, Randolph King) and to 30 Apr at McConaughy (Steven Mlodinow, Elizabeth Winter, Joe Grzybowski), both tardy; one pale Iceland in Canadian Co, OK, first noted in Feb, remained to 4 Mar (Wyatt Egelhoff, Josh Lefever). At least 30 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported, including 15 at McConaughy 26 Apr (Steven Mlodinow) and eight in Canadian Co, OK 13 Mar (Joe Grzybowski). Glaucous Gull has become scarce in recent years, even in the northern region, suggesting a northward shift in the winter range; the only report was surprisingly far south, in Oklahoma Co, OK 4 Mar (Wyatt Egelhoff, Josh Lefever). A regional “zootie” Great Black-backed Gull was the first-winter bird in Canadian Co, OK 12–16 Mar (Steve Davis, Joe Grzybowski, m. ob.). 

Common Tern is an uncommon spring migrant in the northern region and virtually absent in the south; thus, an exceptional find was one in Cleveland Co, OK 12 May (John Tharp). Another regional “zootie” is Arctic Tern; one identified in Cleveland Co, OK 4 May (John Tharp, Randy Soto) is still under review by the Oklahoma Bird Records Committee. Amazingly early by about a month was a winter-plumaged Forster’s Tern in Lancaster Co, NE 8–10 Mar (Linda Sullivan, Michael Willison; photos). Not unexpected at Lake Tenkiller, a regular location, but still considered rare, was a Pacific Loon 1 Mar (John & Lizzie Diener), the only one reported for the season in the region. Neotropic Cormorant is now regular in southern Oklahoma counties, but still rare throughout the rest of region; there were four records in Nebraska and Kansas 28 Mar–28 May (fide Chuck Otte, Ross Silcock), and a wide scatter in Oklahoma (fide Joe Grzybowski). An Anhinga was quite early at Red Slough 11 Mar (David Arbour); an early Least Bittern was there 11 Apr (David Arbour). 

Tricolored Heron is expected in the region only at Red Slough where one was present 27 Apr–11 May (David Arbour, m. ob.); one in Sequoyah Co, OK 8 May (Jeremy Cohen, Erica Sauer) was a rare find. Nine Cattle Egrets in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 21 May (Steven Mlodinow) and a Green Heron in Kimball Co, NE 22 May (Steven Mlodinow) were rare Nebraska Panhandle occurrences. Early were Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in Tulsa Co, OK 13 Mar (Jana Singletary) and in Oklahoma Co, OK 14 Mar (Sean Washington). Peak count of White Ibis at Red Slough was an impressive 4500 on 18 May (David Arbour). A now two-decade incursion of Glossy Ibis in the region produced at least 20 phenotypic individuals this season beginning in mid-April (fide Joe Grzybowski, Ross Silcock), and extending north to Stanton Co, NE (15 Apr; Joel Jorgensen, Stephen Brenner) and Lincoln Co, NE (2 May; Boni Edwards). Among the other ibises, seven were identified as Glossy Ibis x White-faced Ibis hybrids, six of these from Nebraska 14 Apr–28 May (fide Ross Silcock). Because of introgression, it is likely that some reported as Glossy were not purely so, and that hybrids in general were proportionally underreported. Unexpected at Red Slough before June, two Roseate Spoonbills were there 3 May (David Arbour). 

Osprey through falcons

At least four Osprey nests were again active in Scotts Bluff Co, NE, with nestlings present by the end of the period (Kathy DeLara, Dan and Jamalee Clark). At the other end of the region, nesting Ospreys were in Muskogee Co, OK beginning 27 Mar (Jim Arterburn). Rather early were one–two Ospreys 11–12 Mar at Hefner (Steve Stone). White-tailed Kite is a sporadic vagrant in the rRegion; singles were reported in Pratt Co. KS 8 Apr (Shurooq Saryoul) and Finney Co, KS 20 May (Sara Shane, Tom Shane). A Swallow-tailed Kite circling 25 May in Leavenworth Co, KS (Brian Voorhees) was exceptional, even more so for spring. Easterly and tardy was a Golden Eagle at the Salt Plains OK 10 Apr (Michael Reichert); another was easterly in Atoka Co, OK during March (Vonceil Harmon). The only Northern Goshawks reported were singles in Dixon Co, NE 6 Mar (Ed Brogie, Caleb Strand) and Knox Co, NE 7 Mar (Ed Brogie, Caleb Strand). A Broad-winged Hawk was early in Neosho Co, KS 21 Mar (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant) and another in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 3 May (Colin Croft) was a rare westerly occurrence. Quite amazing was a Zone-tailed Hawk on the Wichita Mountains WR, Comanche Co, OK first found 24 Apr (Richard Taylor), then not detected again until 19 May through the period (Lou and Mary Truex, Kurt Meisenzahl, m. ob.); a first for Oklahoma and second for the region, the previous from 2007 in Nebraska. At the eastern edge of the region were single Ferruginous Hawks in Linn Co, KS 1 Mar (Mickey Louis) and Osage Co, KS 2 Mar (Kathy McDowell). 

Easterly Burrowing Owls were one–two at a prairie dog town in Hall Co, NE 29 Apr through the period (Randy Skaggs, m. ob.). The last Snowy Owl to depart, and only one reported for the season, was surprisingly southerly in Jackson Co, KS 8 Mar (Carol Morgan). Seldom detected, a Long-eared Owl was in Alfalfa Co, OK 10 Mar (Glen Hensley), within the expected migrant window. Recent years have seen several breeding locations of Northern Saw-whet Owl discovered in Nebraska; a new one appeared in Valentine, Cherry Co where calling was heard 10 Apr–12 May (Ana Cole, James E. Ducey). Wintering Saw-whets in Nebraska depart by mid-April. 

A Lewis’s Woodpecker that wintered extralimitally in Comanche Co, OK continued there through at least 11 Mar (Joe Grzybowski); another in Cimarron Co, OK 2 May (Phil Chaon), at edge of resident range, was one of few in recent years. Lewis’s in Nebraska were reported from only one known summering site in Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co during late May (fide Ross Silcock). A Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Garfield Co, OK 24 Mar–19 May (Grace Huffman, Curtis Stewart) was a little north of its expected range. Quite unexpected were two single Williamson’s Sapsuckers in Kansas, one in Morton Co 29 Apr (Brandon Percival), the other in Ford Co 16–17 May (Stan and Christi McMillen, m. ob.). Tardy Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were in Morton Co, KS 16 May (Ted Cable, Mike Rader) and Sarpy Co, NE 13 May (Jonathan Nikkila), the latter not far from known breeding sites in the Missouri River Valley. Quite rare in spring, a Red-naped Sapsucker was in Sioux Co, NE 25 Apr (Colin Croft). Sightings of Crested Caracara have been increasing along Oklahoma’s southern-border counties. This season, a pair, first detected last October and present through at least 13 May (Betty Crow, m. ob.), was noted copulating in early March (Jimmy Woodard) and carrying potential nesting material in early May (Doug Wood). Other caracaras were seen in Bryan Co, OK 7–10 May (Doug Wood) and more northerly in Garfield Co, OK 17 May (immature; Adrianh Martinez Orozco). A Merlin in Sioux Co, NE 23 May may have been a local Pine Ridge breeder (Gary Roberts, Ed Brogie, Mark Brogie). The three Douglas Co, Nebraska nesting Peregrine Falcon pairs each had four chicks by 31 May (fide Ross Silcock). A Prairie Falcon in Seward Co, NE 21 Apr (Larry Einemann) was easterly and late.

Flycatchers through chickadees

An Eastern Wood-Pewee was westerly in the Nebraska panhandle to Dawes Co 27 May (Steven Mlodinow). Alder Flycatchers were identified westerly in the Nebraska Panhandle with nine birds at six locations 21–30 May (fide Ross Silcock). Dusky Flycatchers migrating along the very edge of region were in Morton Co, KS 15 May (Andrew Miller) and 17 May (Ted Cable, Mike Rader); no fewer than seven were at four locations in the slightly more westerly Nebraska Panhandle 22–25 May (fide Ross Silcock). This season saw a scatter of Say’s Phoebes easterly with six in northeastern Nebraska 6–21 Apr (fide WRS) and singles in Kingfisher Co, OK 27 Apr (Nancy Vicars, Pat Muzny), Ottawa Co, KS 28 Apr (Henry Armknecht) and Harvey Co, KS 21 Apr (Carolyn Schwab). Vermilion Flycatchers in Harmon Co, OK 19 Apr (R.J. Baltierra), and Morton Co, KS 29 Apr (Brandon Percival) were stretching the edge of their range, with singles further out in Red Willow Co, NE 7 May (William Flack) and Tulsa Co, OK 21 Mar (Pat Vawter). A Western Kingbird was record early for Nebraska in Cedar Co 9 Apr (Caleb Strand). A yellow-bellied kingbird in Oklahoma Co, OK 12 Mar (Jeff Tibbits) was unidentified to species, but far outside arrival times for Cassin’s or Western.


The extreme cold February weather manifested its effect on a number of species, among them normally common species such as Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Wren, and Eastern Bluebird. EBird charts on frequency of reports provide some index of these effects when comparing Feb to Mar changes for 2020 and 2021. Carolina Wren, a resident species, showed slightly higher numbers in Feb 2021 pre-ice storm compared to Feb 2020 in all three states, but substantially lower numbers (depicting an almost 50% decline) in March 2021 post-storm than in Mar 2020. Eastern Phoebes winter mostly south of the region, but within the storm’s effect in Texas. However, comparisons of March reporting in all three states depict lower numbers in 2021 than 2020, perhaps much more so in Nebraska and Kansas (>50%) than in Oklahoma. Eastern Bluebird seemed most hard-hit. February numbers were already lower pre-storm in 2021 compared to Feb 2020. Encounters usually improve to some extent in March with influx of some migrants. However, March encounters from 2020 and 2021 show >50% declines in Nebraska and Kansas and much more so in Oklahoma. This was evident in the perceptions of birders noting an absence of bluebirds in many areas and on daily checklists. [Written from inspections of eBird frequency charts—January 2022.]

End SA

Westerly were Yellow-throated Vireos in Wichita Co, KS 25 May (Henry Arnknecht), Brown Co, NE 23 May (Kelly and Jen Corman) and Buffalo Co, NE 18 May (Andrew Furman). Cassin’s Vireo is unexpected during spring in the region; one was in Morton Co, KS 28 Apr (Brandon Percival, Chris Knight). Rare during spring migration in Kansas and Oklahoma, Plumbeous Vireos were at two Morton Co, KS locations on 10 May (Mark Nolen). Philadelphia Vireo was more frequently reported in central counties of all three states this season with at least 12 individuals noted 5–18 May (fide Joe Grzybowski, Ross Silcock). The odd Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays skirting occasionally into southwestern Kansas were observed at three locations in Finney Co 15 Mar (Sara Shane), 31 Mar (Kathy Carroll, Diane Persons) and 15 May (Quentin Nolan, photo), and at different Grant Co locations 4 Mar (Kathy Mihm-Dunning), 12 Apr (Sam Guy) and 10 May (Kevin Groeneweg, Pete Janzen). Morton County co-hosted as many as 6–10 Scrub Jays at four locations 17 Apr–17 May (fide Chuck Otte). One, possibly two, Clark’s Nutcrackers were in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 3 Mar (Steven Mlodinow), possibly from the six seen there in Oct. Ravens are an enigma in southwestern Kansas, where both species continue to be reported, although identification needs to be carried out with care (fide Chuck Otte). An edge-of-range Chihuahuan Raven was in Roger Mills Co, OK 1 May (Andrew Spencer). The first modern Nebraska record of Common Raven occurred 1–4 Jan 2021; this spring two birds were found about 12 miles from that initial sighting in Sioux Co on 4 Apr (Colin Croft) through the period. Mountain Chickadee showed well along the western edge of the region, especially in Nebraska and Kansas, with tardy individuals 12 May in Morton Co, KS (Mark Nolen) and 22 Apr in Scotts Bluff Co, NE (Zachary Allen). 

Swallows through icterids

A Barn Swallow in Oklahoma Co, OK 1 Mar (Sharon Henthorn) was among a series of early arrivals in Oklahoma in recent years. The arrival timing of Cave Swallow in Oklahoma is still being sorted out; 22 and eight8 were noted at two different culvert locations in Tillman Co 11 Mar (Joe Grzybowski) and 12 Mar (Lou and Mary Truex), respectively. Red-breasted Nuthatches were nest-building easterly in Madison Co, NE during the first week of May, where they nested in 2020 (Jason Thiele); a pair was suspiciously late through 25 May in Creek Co, OK (Kathy Ainsworth) with up to five singles in four Kansas counties through 16-–20 May (fide Chuck Otte). A bit out of range was a Pygmy Nuthatch in Kimball Co, NE 1 May (Michael Willison, Edward Raynor). Three Brown-headed Nuthatches were found at an “old historic site” in Atoka Co, OK 28 Mar (Chad Ellis). A very late Brown Creeper was in Johnson Co, KS 10 May (Malcolm Gold). Among Nebraska wrens, a Rock Wren was far easterly in Saunders Co 8 May (Ian and Weldon Hoppe). A remarkable tally of House Wrens was 175 in Lancaster Co 11 May (Michael Willison). A western race Marsh Wren (subspecies plesius) was heard easterly in Adams Co 12 May (Paul Dunbar). The cold February storm did not hamper the generalized global warming effect on an early nesting pair of Carolina Wrens in Saunders Co, NE Nebraska that had two eggs in their nest on 2 Apr (Wayne Mollhoff). 

A Gray Catbird in Douglas Co, KS 1 Mar (Phil Wedge) probably wintered there. Quite amazing was as many as 14 Western Bluebirds fringing their migration corridor easterly in Cimarron Co, OK 21 Mar (Nu Perera); still exceptional were three others 24–26 Mar (Wyatt Egelhoff, Nu Perera, Lou and Mary Truex). A Townsend’s Solitaire was easterly in Miami Co, KS 4–11 Apr (Melissa Yates-Bruce). Westerly Veeries were in Cleveland Co, OK 7–15 May (John Tharp, Jerry Vanbebber, m. ob.) and Jewell Co, KS 9 May (Debra McKee). Westerly Gray-cheeked Thrushes were westerly in Cherry Co, NE 6 May (John Grettenberger) and 16 May (Mac and Susan McWhirter) and at two locations in Morton Co, KS 10–15 May (Mark Nolan, photo; m. ob.). The 314 Swainson’s Thrushes tallied overhead at night in Wayne Co, NE 14 May (Caleb Strand, Ed Brogie) depicted their abundance in spring migration on the plains. A Hermit Thrush in Lincoln Co, NE 8–18 Mar (Christine Nelson) likely wintered there. Far westerly was a Wood Thrush in Texas Co, OK 5 May (Joe Grzybowski). A Varied Thrush wintering in Lancaster Co, NE was last reported 3 Apr (Lynn McCown). An American Pipit in Lancaster Co 26 May (Larry Einemann) was record late. Sadly, no Sprague’s Pipits were reported in Nebraska or Kansas, and only four at three locations in Oklahoma 5 Mar–19 Apr (fide Joe Grzybowski); this species appears to be in serious and rapid decline. 

Evening Grosbeak has become very rare since the 1980s; thus, noteworthy were one in Oklahoma Co 4 Mar (JoLynn Love) and two in Cimarron Co 29 Apr (Steve Metz). After a “super season” winter for Purple Finch in Oklahoma, some lingered very late to 2 May in Cleveland Co, OK (Cody Delano), 12 May in Rogers Co, OK (Terry Brunholtz) and 9 May in Douglas Co, KS (Roger Boyd). The only Common Redpoll reported was at a Douglas Co, NE feeder 1 Mar (Scott Bradley); more are expected to linger into Mar in Nebraska. Only two Red Crossbills were reported south of Nebraska, a male in Payne Co, OK 22–29 Apr (Landon Neumann), noted singing there for a second year, and Ellsworth Co, KS 20 Mar (Mike Rader). The much rarer White-winged Crossbill was reported late in Madison Co, NE 20 May (Ed Brogie) and Lincoln Co, NE 16 May (Rita Flohr, m. ob.). Lesser Goldfinches, while still rare, are appearing north and west of their limited range in southwestern Oklahoma and the western Oklahoma and Nebraska panhandles; this season, singles wandered to six western Kansas counties 3 Apr–18 May (fide Chuck Otte) and in Oklahoma, a green-backed male was easterly in Oklahoma Co 18–21 Apr (Jimmy Woodard, Nadine Varner). 

With drier conditions, Cassin’s Sparrows ranged northerly to Sioux Co where six individuals were found at two locations 29 May (one individual; Sam Manning, recording) and 30–31 May (five individuals; Scott Bradley, Mark Brogie, Ed Brogie). A Black-throated Sparrow in Morton Co, KS 29 Apr (Brandon Percival) edged past its mesa-country range in Cimarron Co, OK. Single Chipping Sparrows in Lancaster Co, NE 7 Mar (Linda Sullivan) and Dodge Co, NE 8 Mar (Gary Roberts) were early or wintered. A Brewer’s Sparrow in Kiowa Co, KS 5 May (Tony L) was quite far easterly. The famous Yellow-eyed Junco wintering in Scott Co, KS was last reported 31 Mar (fide Chuck Otte). Tardy were one–three White-throated Sparrows in Tulsa Co, OK 20–29 May (Zach Poland) and a Song Sparrow in Oklahoma Co, OK 27 Apr (Bill Diffin). A LeConte’s Sparrow was westerly in Blaine Co, NE 19 May (Jan Johnson). Rufous-crowned Sparrow clings to its disjunct southwestern Kansas range; singles were a little north and east in Scott Co 28 Mar–29 Apr (Lucas DeCicco) and Kiowa Co 19 Apr (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant). There were four reports of the rare western-migrant Green-tailed Towhee, two each in Nebraska and Kansas 1–16 May (fide Ross Silcock, Chuck Otte). Westerly were Eastern Towhees in Comanche Co. OK 10 Apr (Brian Marra, Elizabeth Hacker, Grace Huffman) and Oklahoma Co 14 Apr (Jimmy Woodard). An early Baltimore Oriole was in Atchison Co, KS 9 Apr (Don Merz). Reports from the Bronzed Cowbird outlier group in Seward Co, KS continued with one there 14 May (Andrew Miller, Michael Miller); still noteworthy was one in Cimarron Co, OK 16–23 May (Steve Metz, m. ob.). 


Tardy Ovenbirds were in eastern Nebraska; Saline Co 28 May (Randy Skaggs) and Lancaster Co 30 May (Ken Oeser). A little westerly of their restricted Oklahoma range were single Worm-eating Warblers in Tulsa Co 18 Apr (Zach Poland, Adelynn Woodard, Richard Hasegawa) and Okmulgee Co 24 Apr (Brett and Lareina Niland). A surprise find were Louisiana Waterthrushes 31 May nesting at Fort Falls, Cherry Co, NE, almost 200 miles west of the next known location, with fledglings seen 6 Jun (Renee Tressler, photos). Adding to the surprise were two singing males in nearby Smith Falls SP in early Jun (Paul Dougherty). It is not known whether these represent a previously-undetected outlier group from long-suitable but unvisited habitat along the bluffs of the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, or an unappreciated more recent progression of birds of improving forest corridors in intermediate areas (fide Ross Silcock). Also westerly was a Louisiana Waterthrush in Ellis Co, OK 23 Apr (R.J. Baltierra). An impressive 50+ Golden-winged Warblers were reported in eastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas (fide Ross Silcock, eBird), continuing a pattern of increasing numbers in recent years. Other Golden-wingeds included three westerly in Cleveland Co, OK 12 May (Jeanette Bider) and 13 May (John Tharp, Dan Hayes) and Oklahoma Co, OK 15 May (Chad Ellis). Blue-winged Warbler, a significant rarity away from the eastern edge counties in the region included four singles from Kansas 27 Apr–16 May (fide CO), one quite westerly in Meade Co 8 May (Jeff Calhoun). Unexpected was a westerly Prothonotary Warbler in Comanche Co, OK 12 May (Jeremy Ross et al.); another was early in Johnston Co, OK 30 Mar (Justin Roach). A Swainson’s Warbler in Tulsa Co 21–23 May (Bill Carrell, Richard Hasegawa) was west of expected. 

Arriving early was a Nashville Warbler in Bryan Co, OK 27 Mar (Doug Wood). One of fewer than 10 Kansas records for Virginia’s Warbler was one in Morton Co 2 May (Brandon Percival, Chris Knight). Connecticut Warbler is a very rare spring migrant along the northeast edge of the region; this season, the seven reports amounted to an influx. Four of the five Nebraska Connecticuts occurred from 15–21 May (fide WRS) with the others in Douglas Co, KS 20 May (Mark Robbins, m. ob.) and westerly in Labette Co, KS 21 May (Chad Gardner, Andrew Burnett). An easterly MacGillivray’s Warbler was in Buffalo Co, NE 12–13 May (Andrew Furman). Hooded Warbler is an annual but rare overshoot in the region outside southeastern Oklahoma; the two reports were 11 May in Douglas Co, NE (Mike Rome, Mary Jo Rome), and one–two, including a female, in Morton Co, KS 29 Apr–5 May (Brandon Percival). A Hooded was quite early at Red Slough 30 Mar (David Arbour). Cape May Warbler is exceptional in Oklahoma; one was in Cleveland Co 8–9 May (Jeremy Ross, m. ob.). Even more exceptional was a Cape May at the western fringe of the region in Stanton Co, KS 15 May (Henry Armknecht, Jeff Calhoun, Dan Larson). Perhaps just surprising were the four Cape Mays in Nebraska, two in Otoe Co 13 May (Jerry Geiseking), and singles in Lancaster Co (Michael Willison), and Douglas Co, both 14 May (Sam Manning). A Cerulean Warbler was northerly in Cuming Co, NE 9 May (Eli Weber, m. ob.). 

Several eastern wood-warbler species had individuals westerly in the region. Northern Parulas were found in Texas Co, OK 5 May (Joe Grzybowski), Lane Co, KS also early on 3 Apr (Jeff Calhoun, STM), Stanton Co, KS 16 May (Henry Armknecht, Jeff Calhoun, Dan Larson), and even further northwesterly, singing in Cherry Co, NE 31 May (Renee Tressler). Westerly Magnolia Warblers were in Clark Co, KS 14 May (Anthony Miller, Michael Miller) and Hooker Co, NE 16 May (William Flack). Bay-breasted Warblers, also westerly, were in Payne Co, OK 6 May (Caleb McKinney, Scott Loss, Landon Neumann), Cleveland Co, OK 9 May (Tomasz Kuder), and Buffalo Co, NE 14 May (Jonathan Nikkila, Andrew Furman). Blackburnian Warblers west were in Payne Co, OK 13 May (Landon Neuman, Scott Loss, Mike Yough), Oklahoma Co, OK 15–16 May (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, m. ob.), and Keith Co, NE 21 May (Mark Brogie, Ed Brogie, Caleb Strand). A Blackburnian was late in Sarpy Co, NE 31 May (Mary Clausen). A far westerly Chestnut-sided Warbler was in Cheyenne Co, NE 22 May (Steven Mlodinow). Any Black-throated Blue Warbler, a regional rarity, is westerly including four this season, singles in Richardson Co, NE (Steven Mlodinow), Keith Co, NE 21 May (Ed Brogie, Mark Brogie, Caleb Strand), Scotts Bluff Co, NE 22 May (Caleb Strand), and Jackson Co, KS 5 May (Mark Pheasant). More westerlies were Palm Warblers in Cherry Co, NE 6 May (Hunter Bohn), Mitchell Co, KS 25 Apr (Nicholas Niewald), and Woods Co, OK 4 May (R.J. Baltierra). Edging its expected range was a Prairie Warbler in Johnson Co, KS 30 Apr (Kathy Carroll). A Black-throated Gray Warbler in Morton Co, KS 4 May (Brandon Percival) was a regional “zootie.” A Wilson’s Warbler was early in Cleveland Co, OK 16 Apr (Nu Perera). 

Tanagers through buntings

A male Hepatic Tanager was again in the same draw in Cimarron Co, OK 5–23 May (Joe Grzybowski, Jimmy Woodard, m. ob.), one of only a handful of records for the region. Far westerly Summer Tanagers were in Sioux Co, NE 22 May (Steven Mlodinow) and Stevens Co, KS 14 May (Henry Armknecht, Jeff Calhoun, Dan Larson). Scarlet Tanagers were westerly in Garfield Co, OK 30 Apr (Curtis Stewart) and Oklahoma Co, OK 15 May (Bill Diffin). Western Tanagers were far easterly in Tulsa Co, OK 23 Mar (Steve Wolfe) and Crawford Co, KS 14–16 May (Katharine Spigarelli). A trailer of the winter Pyrrhuloxias was one in Oklahoma Co, OK 18 Mar (Lori Beasley). Westernmost Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were a male in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 8 May (Kathy DeLara) and one–two in Cimarron, Co, OK 4–23 May (Joe Grzybowski, Jimmy Woodard, m. ob.). A Black-headed Grosbeak was easterly in Payne Co, OK 6 May (Scott Loss). Lazuli Buntings are rare but regularly reported in central portions of the region; far easterly was one at Red Slough 4 May (David Arbour, Grace Huffman, Brian Marra). Three single Indigo Buntings were reported far to the west in Cimarron Co, OK 15–17 May (Lou & Mary Truex, Jerry Vanbebber). Westerly Painted Buntings were in Scott Co, KS 19 May (Sara Shane) and Texas Co, OK 15 May (Lou & Mary Truex, Jerry Vanbebber).

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 16 Feb 2022.

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Spring 2021

Among the more unusual hybrids is this Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup found 13 Apr 2021 at Gavin’s Point Dam, Knox Co, Nebraska. Photo © Ed M. Brogie.

Part of an up-tick in recent years in Oklahoma is this Red-necked Grebe 31 Mar 2021 at Lake Hefner, Oklahoma Co, possibly a bird found during winter, or a rare spring migrant. Photos © Patricia Velte.

Quite the surprise was this female Broad-billed Hummingbird, Nebraska’s first, at a feeder in Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co, 15 May 2021. Photo © Caleb Strand.

For the second time, a Limpkin wandered to Red Slough WMA, McCurtain Co, Oklahoma, this time 12 April 2021. There has been a recent array of records for this species in Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Photo © David Arbour.

Where but in Nebraska could we have a repeat occurrence of Common Crane, with two birds present at one point 19–27 May 2021 in one of two nearby locations—Kearney and Buffalo Cos. Photo here in Kearney Co 21 Mar. Photos © Brian Peterson.

Still exceptional in Oklahoma, this first-winter Great Black-backed Gull appeared at Lake Overholser and area, Canadian Co 12–16 Mar 2021 (here 13 Mar). Photo © Joe Grzybowski.

Quite a-ways afield was this White-tailed Kite floating over Garden City, Finney Co, Kansas 20 May 2021, among the more northwesterly in the region. Photo © Tom and Sara Shane.

Clearly an unexpected surprise was when Richard Taylor saw this Zone-tailed Hawk 24 Apr 2021 (here) at French Lake in the Wichita Mountains WR, Comanche Co, OK. It was not seen again until 18 May, then noted through the end of the period by many others. This is the first for Oklahoma. Photo © Richard Taylor.

Rarely far out on the Plains, this Williamson’s Sapsucker was a backyard bird in Dodge City, Ford Co, Kansas 16–17 May 2021 (here 17 May). Photo © Stan McMillen.

A male Hepatic Tanager has now appeared in the same draw for the third year in a row, in mesa country of northwestern Cimarron Co, Oklahoma, this year noted from 5–23 May 2021 (here 19 May), and suggesting potential breeding attempts, albeit with Summer Tanagers. Photo © Steve Metz.