Southern Great Plains: Winter 2019-2020

Winter 2019-20: 1 Dec 2019—29 Feb 2020

Joseph A. Grzybowski

W. Ross Silcock

Grzybowski, J.A. and Silcock, W. R. 2020. Winter 2019-20: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds.

Certain species continue to shift northwest, gradually, up riparian corridors. These include residents such as Pileated Woodpecker, Carolina Wren and Northern Cardinal. This winter, a broad array of less-hardy species was found much further north than is typical. Some of these, like Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, and Orchard Oriole would have been unheard-of in previous years. Many of the less-hardy species even pushed into our northernmost state, Nebraska; multiple House Wrens and Orange-crowned Warblers were recorded. Chipping Sparrows have now become widespread in Kansas during winter.

In contrast, then, wintering distributions of some species such as Rough-legged Hawks and American Tree Sparrows continue to contract. Common Mergansers were present in just half their expected numbers in Nebraska. In central Oklahoma, where thousands would have occurred in previous decades, the species was virtually absent. Glaucous Gull was rare throughout the region, even at regular wintering lakes. Some waterfowl species, like Common Goldeneye and Horned Grebe, pushed northward earlier—the grebe seemed to depart a few weeks earlier than typical in central and eastern Oklahoma, and was essentially gone well before April.

Some species in Nebraska, such as Black-capped Chickadee and Black-billed Magpie, continue to face population challenges. The latter, though, shows some encouraging signs. Northern Bobwhite demonstrated mixed trends this year; the species is known, however, for sharp declines and upsurges in response to local, annual environmental conditions. White-winged Dove continues to expand and is now well into Nebraska.

So here is our winter report for the Southern Great Plains, with its interesting array of extralimital anomalies and potential mini-patterns. Enjoy.


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).

Contributing Observers.  (Sub-regional editors in boldface)

NEBRASKA: Jessie Barry (JBa), Joseph Beaderman (JBe), Eric Bents, Ed Brogie (EBr), Scott Buss, Andrew Caven, Jen Corman, Lauren Darnold, Linda Deeds (LDe), Kathy DeLara, Roger Dietrich, Dave Ely, Dianna Eddy (DEd), Boni Edwards, Larry Einemann, William Flack, Rita Flohr, Tom Gannon, Jonas Grundman (JGr), Joseph Gubanyi, Matt Hansen (MHa), Dave Heidt, Blake Helget, Matt Hofeditz (MHo), Bill F. Huser, Jan Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Gordon Karre, Alice Kenitz, Steve Kruse, Jordan LaBarr (JLa), Jonah Levy (JLv), Robert Manning (RMa), Sam Manning (SMa), Steve Mlodinow, Jonathan Nikkila, Quinn Pack, Loren & Babs Padelford (L&BP), Don & Jan Paseka (D&JP), Brian Peterson, Cathy Prettyman, Ben Ream, Justin Rink, Paul Roisen, Theresa Sampson (TSa), Cheryl Samusevich (CSa), Amber Schiltz, W. Ross Silcock, Kent Skaggs, Ruth Stearns, Jim Sullivan, Linda Sullivan, Paul Timm, Jerry Toll, Matthew & Cynthia Van Den Broeke (M&CV), Bruce & Donna Walgren (B&DW), Don & Marion Weidemann (D&MW), Doug Weidemann (DWd), Caitie Wiechman, Jonathan Wentz (JWe), Bruce White (BWh), Bob Willison (BWi), Michael Willison, Chris Wood (CWo), Emily Wynn.  KANSAS:  Henry Armknecht, Jeremy Birket (JBi), John Bollin, Roger Boyd, Andrew Burnett, Kathy Carroll, Michael Cooper, Corey Entriken, Matt Gearheart, Malcolm Gold (MGo), Lisa Hoffman, Pete Janzen, Dave Klema, Thomas Koffel, Kaleb Kroeker, Mark Land, Dan Larson, Jack Lefor, Guy Luneau, Mark Mayfield, Christi McMillen (CMi), Anthony Miller, Debra Mootz, Carol Morgan, Joseph Mosley (JMo), Sue Newland, Atcha Nolan, Mark Nolen, Chuck Otte, Rob Penner, Diane Persons, Isaac Peterson, Mark Pheasant, Galen Pittman, Jenn Rader (JRa), Mike Rader, Dave Rintoul, Mark Robbins (MRo), Tom & Sam Schermerhorn (T&SS), Carolyn Schwab, David Seibel, Steve Seibel (SSb), Scott Seltman, Terry Swope, Bryan White, Mary K. Wilcox, Dave Williams, Jeff Witters (JWi), Rodney Wright, Linda Zempel,  OKLAHOMA:  Ty Allen, Leif Anderson, David Arbour, John Ault, Jim Bradford (JBr), Chris Butler, Bill Carrell, Jacob Crissup (JCr), Steve Davis, Bill Diffin, Melinda Droege, James A. Grzybowski, Alex Harman, Glen Hensley (GHe), Geoff Hill, Steve Hodge, Mark Howery, David Jameson, Suzanne Johnson, Ron Kittinger, Tomasc Kuder (TKu), Debbie Lang (DLa), Matthew Larson (MLa), Jack Lefor, Scott Loss, Jimmy Lovett (JLo), Brian Marra, Dan McDonald (DMc), Caleb McKinney (CMc), Kurt Meisenzahl, Steve Metz (SMe), John Muller, Joe Neal (JNe), Landon Neuman, Stephen Ofsthun, Jack Olson, Susan Pogue, Zach Poland, Justin Roach (JRo), Stephen Robertson, Randy Sander (RSa), Frank Sandford, Ben Sandstrom, Kelvin Schoonover (KSc), Doug Smith (DSm), Phillip Stephenson, Curtis Stewart (CSt), Meredith Swartwout, Brett Thompson, David Tonnessen, Mattthew Toomey, Lou & Mary Truex (L&MT), Jerry Vanbebber, Doug Wood (DWo), Jimmy Woodard, Eugene Young.


Excellent counts of Ross’s Geese in OK were 5000 in Caddo 31 Dec (L&MT) and 4000 in Custer 20 Jan (JAG). Brant, a regional rarity, was reported in Caddo, OK 30-31 Dec (KSc, L&MT). Numbers of wintering Trumpeter Swans continue to increase in the northern region and in northeastern Oklahoma (fide WRS, JAG), perhaps less markedly in Kansas (fide CO). High counts of 144 occurred in Washington, NE 15 Dec (fide JT) and 60 were in Leavenworth, KS 14 Jan (DW), with 13-18 noted in various groups in Washington and Osage, OK 8 Dec-17 Feb (MD, BD, m.ob.). Tundra Swans have also become increasingly regular during midwinter, with 45 at Quivira 16 Feb (SS), 14 in Nebraska (fide WRS), and 8 in Oklahoma (fide JAG), 5 of these in Alfalfa (CSt, GHe, m.ob.). 2 Wood Ducks remained north to Lancaster, NE 9 Jan (TG) with 1 in Douglas, NE 3 Feb (JGr). 5 Blue-winged Teal were in Lincoln, NE 8 Dec (BWh), up to 15 were at Red Slough 15 Dec (CB, MLa), and 4 were in Noble, OK 17 Dec (EY, KM). 4 in Custer, OK 10 Feb (JO) were likely early migrants. A Cinnamon Teal in Keith, NE 22 Feb (SM) was also early; 2 were in Alfalfa, OK 25 Jan (CSt). A Eurasian Wigeon was at Cheyenne Bottoms 26 Feb (RP). The 34,000 Mallards in Lincoln, NE 4 Jan (SM, DE) was an impressive number. In recent winters, American Black Duck has become more uncommon—in part due to increasing hybridization with Mallard. However, there were 2 Nebraska reports of single birds this season: 15 Dec in Dodge (BH fide EB), and 2 Jan in Sarpy (JGJ, m.ob.). There were also 4 reports in Kansas, 1 bird recorded from 2 locations in Elk 10 & 13 Dec (CS, MGo), 2 in Neosho 13 Dec-22 Feb (KC, DP), and singles in Franklin 21 Dec (MGo) and Linn 22 Dec (MGo, TS).

All 3 scoters wintered in Oklahoma: a Surf and 2 White-wingeds at Hefner (m.ob.), and a Black on 23 Jan at Red Slough (DA). Scoters found further north included a Surf in Sarpy, NE 2 Jan (JGJ), a Black in Osage, KS 3 Jan (CE), a Surf 8-19 Feb also in Osage, KS. (KC, DP) and a White-winged—record early—in Hall, NE 15-27 Feb (RF, m.ob.). Long-tailed Ducks were in all 3 states through the period, notably in Kansas where 7 individuals total were reported from 5 counties 23 Dec-26 Feb (fide CO). Long-tails were also recorded in Cedar, NE 15-29 Feb (PR, m.ob.), Pawnee/Noble, OK (3 birds) 7 Dec (LN), and in Jefferson, OK 31 Jan-7 Feb (L&MT). Excellent tallies of Common Goldeneye included 3000 in Pawnee/Noble, OK 7 Dec (LN) and 1500 in Cedar, NE 10 Feb (WF). Barrow’s Goldeneye put on a good showing. Nebraska and Kansas reported a surprising 10 birds at 7 locations 21 Dec-25 Feb (fide WRS, CO), and 1 was in Cimarron, OK 18-20 Jan (FS, SMe). 2 Barrow’s in Cedar, NE 4-25 Feb (JJ, RD, m.ob.) were quite easterly. Far fewer Common Mergansers than usual showed up this winter. The peak count at Harlan County Reservoir, Harlan, NE was 9000 on 19 Dec (JR, JLa), markedly lower than the usual 15,000+. No migrants of this species were found on Oklahoma City lakes (JAG), where historically, 4-digit numbers would be tallied. Northern Bobwhite is a species where significant declines—and rapid recovery due to high fecundity—are both exhibited. This winter in Nebraska, bobwhite appear to have benefited from a good breeding season, recovering from spring 2019’s 37% decline. (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission data). In Oklahoma, their numbers still seem diminished—a continuing trend (fide JAG).

Pied-billed Grebes, probably late-lingerers, were unexpected in Nebraska in mid-winter: these included singles in Dakota 14 Jan (BFH, m.ob.) and Red Willow 9-14 Jan (GK). A Horned Grebe at McConaughy 29 Feb (MW) was unusual for the winter period. Red-necked Grebe is rare in the region at any season; one wintered at Hefner (m.ob.), and another was in Linn, KS 1-25 Dec (KC). Eared Grebes are locally rare during winter in southwest and central Oklahoma; 39 remained in Canadian 9 Dec (BD), up to 6 wintered on Oklahoma City lakes, (fide JAG) and 1 was in Hodgeman, KS 9 Jan (CMi). Western Grebes in Jefferson, KS 3 Dec (MP),  Hefner 1 Dec (two; CMc),  Payne, OK 2 Dec (JLo, SL), and Cherokee, OK 23 Dec (MS, SR) were quite easterly. A Common Ground Dove, a regional rarity, was found in Oklahoma 25 Jan (BM). The 50 reports of White-winged Doves in Nebraska 2 Nov-23 Mar (fide WRS) indicate a growing winter population. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo, documented in McCurtain, OK on 20 Dec (RSa) was most unexpected. Rails lingering or wintering in Oklahoma included a Yellow Rail at Red Slough 16 Dec (DA), at least 1 Common Gallinule there also, 19 and 23 Dec (DA), and single Soras in Johnston 13-14 Dec and 21 Jan (DWo, JRo), at Red Slough 19 Dec (DA), and west to Ellis 4 Jan (JW). About 6150 Sandhill Cranes arrived on the central Platte River Valley, NE by 11 Feb, building to 34,500 by 24 Feb (AC). Easterly Sandhill Cranes included 27-29 in Tulsa, OK 7-9 Feb (BC) and Osage, KS 21 Feb (CM, SN).  A juvenile Whooping Crane wintered at Quivira (fide CO), and another, early, was recorded in Major, OK 19 Feb (JBr).


Single American Avocets remained at Quivira 3 Dec-18 Jan (DM) and Hackberry Flat 23 Jan-22 Feb (L&MT). The 12 Long-billed Curlews at Hackberry Flat 26 Jan (L&MT) and 2 there 16 Feb (L&MT) were possibly overwintering, as were the 3 Dunlin first spotted 21-22 Feb (JAG, LN, ZP).  An early migrant Baird’s Sandpiper was in Ellsworth, KS 16 Feb (DK). 14-40 Long-billed Dowitchers, noted at Hackberry Flat 22 Jan-22 Feb (L&MT, LN, ZP), were quite northerly for this season. An American Woodcock in Miami, KS 16 Feb (MGo) was early. Spotted Sandpipers, becoming more seasonally regular, wintered at 5 Oklahoma locations 2 Dec-18 Feb (fide JAG). 4 Willets in Cleveland, OK 9 Jan (SO) were most exceptional for the winter date. Greater Yellowlegs were as far north as Cheyenne Bottoms 24 Jan (JL) and Quivira 1 Jan (RP) & 8 Feb (MN). An adult Black-legged Kittiwake, unexpected in regard to both plumage and occurrence, was in Osage, KS 6-15 Jan (KC, DP, m.ob.). A Laughing Gull in Dawson, NE 3 Jan (JN) was a winter surprise. Alternate-plumaged Franklin’s Gulls seem to have a propensity for appearing in the region during winter months; such individuals were in Lancaster, NE 4 Dec (LS) and Reno, KS 21 Dec (AM), with 1-3 in Tulsa and Canadian, OK mid-Dec through the period (fide JAG).

Mew Gulls, regional rarities, were in Osage, KS 10 Jan (MGo, JMo) and Johnson, KS 1-7 Feb (ML, KC, MGo).  McConaughy hosted 1-2 adult California Gulls during the period (fide WRS); the only other report was an adult at Hefner 21 Dec (LN). Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were present at McConaughy, peaking at 7 on 22 Feb (JGJ, m.ob.); elsewhere, singles were at Hefner 6 and 22 Feb (BD, LN, ZP) and Comanche, OK 15 Dec and 12 Jan (TA).  A small Iceland (ssp. kumleini) was photographed at Hefner 20 Jan (JAG). A paler Iceland at McConaughy 22 Feb was reported as ssp. “glaucoides/kumlieni” (SM) and “borderline Kumlien’s” (JGJ), and a pale gull in Lancaster 25 Feb (LE) may have been a pale Iceland or a small Glaucous (ssp. barrovianus). Lesser Black-backed Gulls (1-2) were found at McConaughy during Jan, with numbers increasing to 8 on 22 Feb (SMa); scattered birds were found across Oklahoma during the period (fide JAG). Fewer Glaucous Gulls are being reported. This season there were just 4, including singles in Woodward, OK 22 Jan (FS, SMe), Quivira 1 Feb (KC, MGo, ML), Tulsa, OK 2 Feb (ZP), and McConaughy 20 Feb (JGJ).  Red-throated Loons were noted only in Oklahoma: singles in Cherokee 21 Dec (JNe) and Custer 20 Jan (JAG). Single Pacific Loons lingered in Osage, Kansas 6-10 Dec (KC, MGo, m.ob.), with others in Linn, KS 26 Dec-14 Jan (GP), and Sequoyah, OK 21 Dec and 25 Jan (JNe). 2 Common Loons were late in Harlan, NE 14 Dec (JGJ).  Nebraska’s 4th Yellow-billed Loon, in Lancaster 8 Dec (SK) was unexpected; the only other report was of one at Hefner 28 Feb (BC), possibly a bird first noted in Oct and Nov, but undetected in between. 30 American White Pelicans were in Harlan, NE by 10 Feb (DEd) with 150 by 14 Feb (JWe), and 30 were in Loup, northeastern NE 10 Feb (KS).

Lingering herons consisted of an American Bittern at Red Slough 19 and 26 Dec (DA), a Great Egret in Major, OK 27 Dec (SJ), and another Great Egret in Sedgwick, KS that persisted until 20 Jan (JBi). A Green Heron at Red Slough 16 Dec (LA) was quite late. 6 Black-crowned Night-Herons wintered in Oklahoma, OK (fide JAG), an isolated wintering area; an immature was north to Otoe, NE 12 Dec (SMa, BR). As many as 54 White Ibis were still at Red Slough during Dec, with a surprising 19 lingering as late as 2 Jan (DA). Lingering dark ibises included 5 White-faced in Sequoyah, OK 18 Dec (PS) and one unidentified to species at Red Slough 26 Dec (DA). Up to 3 Neotropic Cormorants were at Red Slough beginning 30 Jan (DA), and another was late in Stephens, OK 5 Dec (BS). An Anhinga wintered at Red Slough 23 Dec-17 Feb (DA). As many as 39 Black Vultures were pushing winter range limits in Chautauqua, KS 13 Dec (MGo, CS, AN), and a rare, very early, leap-year record for Turkey Vulture came from Wayne, NE 29 Feb (EBr). A late Osprey was in Sedgwick, KS 3 Dec (SSb); others in Linn, KS 9 Jan (RB) and Jefferson, NE 20 Feb (MHa) may have wintered. Golden Eagles are rare in the eastern parts of the region; one was in Anderson, KS 11 Dec (MGo), and an adult was at Red Slough 16-18 Dec (DA).  4 Northern Goshawks, more than typical, were noted in Nebraska this winter. One, an adult female and fairly far south, was in Stevens, KS 22 Jan (GL). The 300 Bald Eagles at Calamus Reservoir, Loup, NE 21 Feb (KS) and the 259 along 55 miles of the Missouri River in Nemaha and Richardson, NE 23 Dec (SMa) were good tallies. There are 10 records of the newly recognized “Northern” Red-tailed Hawk, ssp. abieticola, for Nebraska; 3 of this heavily marked form were photographed during Feb (SMa).

Barred Owl’s westerly outpost in this region is in Harlan, NE. 4 were located at 3 locations there on 14 Dec (JGJ, JN). Single Long-eared Owls were found in Jefferson, KS 15 Dec (IP, MP) and Harvey, KS 18 Jan (RP). 13 Northern Saw-whet Owls were found in dense cedars in southeast Lincoln, NE 20 Feb; most of these were heard in a 2.5 mile stretch of road (SMa). Belted Kingfishers northwest of the expected Nebraska winter range were singles in Cherry 25 Jan (WF) and Dawes 21 Dec (fide B&DW). Lewis’s Woodpeckers seem to be appearing more regularly in more easterly locations. This winter, they were found in Morton, KS 26 Dec-4 Jan (BW), several were found in the Wichita Mountains W.R., Comanche, OK (DMc, SH), and one was recorded at the far eastern edge of the region in Sarpy, NE 18 Dec-19 Jan (LD, AS, m.ob.).  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Scotts Bluff, NE, was quite west. It had continued from 1 Nov and was present through 11 Jan (AK, KD). Another in Antelope, NE 2 Feb (SB) was northerly. A Pileated Woodpecker in Saunders, NE 17 Dec (WF) exemplifies the general westerly expansion for this species. Peregrine Falcons occupied Nebraska nest sites in Lincoln 2 Feb (SK), downtown Omaha 31 Jan (fide JGJ), and north Omaha 30 Jan (JT). The latter pair, appropriately named Lewis and Clark, were 2012 Omaha nest mates (JGJ). Easterly Prairie Falcons in Nebraska included 2 in Dodge 17 Dec (fide D&JP), and singles in Seward 4 Feb (JG) and Gage 6 Feb (CW).


Say’s Phoebes in Pawnee, OK 8 Dec (SL), and in Cherokee/Muskogee, OK 20 Dec (MH, BT) were quite east. Another, in Jackson, OK 10 Jan (JA) and 21 Feb (JV, JCr), was a more regular—but still notable—occurrence. A Loggerhead Shrike in Harlan, NE 14 Dec (JGJ), was late. Northern Shrikes were reported south and east to Miami, KS 22 Jan (RW) and Atchison, KS 23 Feb (MRo, JB). A White-eyed Vireo in Cleveland, OK 19 Jan (TKu) was exceptional for winter. Remarkably, another was recorded further north in Mitchell, KS 23 Dec (MR, HA).  Black-billed Magpie maintains its tenuous, disjunct hold in eastern Nebraska, where 5 were found at 2 Madison locations 21 Dec (fide DH). Chihuahuan Ravens appear to be re-establishing their former range in sw. OK, where 1-2 were in 5 counties 20 Jan-16 Feb (fide JAG). 3 late Tree Swallows were in Cherokee/Muskogee, OK 20 Dec (MH), and 3 at Red Slough 17 Feb (DA) were early arrivals. Purple Martins arrived in late Feb in Oklahoma with singles recorded in Comanche 25 Feb (KM) and Payne 29 Feb (SL). A Tufted Titmouse in Nuckolls, NE 1 Jan (EW) was far west, while 2 Black-crested Titmice wandered east to Tillman, OK 19 Jan (BM). Bushtits wandering into the plains included 6 in Scott, KS 10 Dec (HA) and 4 in Morton, KS 26 Dec (BW). Red-breasted Nuthatches were abundant in the northwestern area of the region with a high count of 29 in Scotts Bluff, NE 22 Dec (SM, JBa, CWo). However, they were essentially absent in eastern Nebraska (L&BP) and Oklahoma (fide JAG). A White-breasted Nuthatch, rare in the Oklahoma panhandle, was in Cimarron, OK 2 Feb (JV, JCr). It is uncertain whether this individual was of the eastern or western race.

House Wrens, notable in winter, were found north to Lancaster, NE 2 Dec (LS), and Cowley, KS as late as 5 Jan (DS). 2 were recorded west to Oklahoma in Dewey 2 Jan (BM), and one was in Ellis 4 Jan (JW). Winter Wrens notably west in Jan included 1-2 in Lincoln, NE 1-5 Jan (BE photo; SM, DE recording); the recording confirmed this individual was not a Pacific Wren. A Sedge Wren in Douglas, KS 1 Feb (MKW), likely wintered. Marsh Wren were widespread in southwestern Nebraska, being recorded from 6 locations (fide WRS). Carolina Wren is another species expanding west. They were recorded from two Lincoln locations 14 Dec (LDe) and 15 Feb (BE).  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, unexpected in winter, were documented from 4 Oklahoma counties this season between 7 Dec-29 Feb (fide JAG), and extralimital winter Ruby-crowned Kinglets were in Dakota, NE 26 Dec-1 Jan (BFH) and Texas, OK 22 Jan (RK, FS). 5 Eastern Bluebirds in Brown, NE 21 Feb (JC) were early for the far northern region. Quite eastern Townsend’s Solitaires were at two Lancaster, NE locations: one continued from 13 Nov through 7 Feb (JGJ, m.ob.), and the other was 5 Jan-1 Feb (RS, m.ob.). Varied Thrush is a less-than -annual winter visitor to the northern region. One was found in Lancaster, NE 24-29 Dec (CSa photo). Gray Catbirds were more numerous than typical this season. One, the first recorded to overwinter in Nebraska, was in Lancaster 2 Dec-22 Feb (M&CV), and singles were in 3 Kansas counties: Russell through 24 Jan (DK), Douglas through 15 Feb (TK), and Ford through 5 Feb (CMi). Jan Gray Catbird reports for Oklahoma include Delaware 9 Jan (DT et al.) and Blaine 23 Jan (JL).  A Curve-billed Thrasher in Harmon, OK 16 Feb (BM) was at the edge of its southwestern OK range. There were 3-4 Brown Thrashers in Nebraska this winter in Douglas 25 Jan-1 Feb (RMa, SMa) and Lancaster 21 Feb (JS). They were also widely reported in Kansas (fide CO). A Northern Mockingbird persisted in Dundy, NE 29 Feb (SM, QP). The only reports of Bohemian Waxwing were up to 4 with flocks of Cedar Waxwings around McConaughy during the period (SM, m.ob.). An American Pipit was in Lancaster, NE 11-26 Feb (JG, m.ob.).  Sprague’s Pipit wintering in Oklahoma were noted north to Ellis 19 Dec & 24 Jan (JM) and Osage 3 Feb (JM).


Evening Grosbeaks were reported only from the extreme northwestern region. 2 were in Dawes, NE 21 Dec (KD) and 5 Jan (SB), and 4 were in Scotts Bluff 22 Dec (SM, JBa, CWo). An exceptionally extralimital Pine Grosbeak was in Logan, OK 13 Feb (DLa), and 2 males and a female were in Harlan, NE 14-15 Dec (BP, m.ob). 25 “Hepburn’s” (littoralis ssp.) of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch were seen with 30 of the more expected tephrocotis ssp. in Sioux, NE 22 Dec (SM, CWo, JBa). An additional 30 rosy-finches were found in Banner, NE 31 Dec (SMa).  Common Redpoll, normally present during winter in Nebraska, were only reported from Douglas 31 Dec (PT) and 2 individuals in Dixon 15 Feb (TSa). 2 were also found in Ellsworth, KS 12 Jan (JRa, MR). Red Crossbill, present in large numbers during fall, was more numerous than typical in eastern Nebraska: 26 reports involved about 140 birds (fide WRS). The only other reports of this species were from Payne, OK, where 2 were found 16 Dec and 1 was reported on 29 Feb (CMc, LN). Most recordings from Nebraska indicated the expected Type 2, but Type 4 birds were detected in Cass 27 Dec (BP) and 11 Feb (SMa). The much rarer White-winged Crossbill was found in Sarpy, NE 23-25 Dec (F; L&BP), with 5-7 in Sheridan 27 Dec-4 Jan (D&MW, DWd, SB). Pine Siskin was numerous in Nebraska with 840 individuals tallied (fide WRS), 170 of these at feeders in Scotts Bluff 22 Dec (SM, JBa, CWo).  Lesser Goldfinch keep expanding in range and season; this winter a green-backed male was at McConaughy 14 Dec (SM, MHo, DE), 2 were in Oklahoma, OK (SD), and wintering birds were at Comanche, OK 9 Feb (L&MT), and 3 locations in Cimarron, OK 20 Jan (BC).

A Chestnut-collared Longspur in Osage, OK 5 Dec (JM) was a bit east of its expected winter range. An excellent tally of 100 McCown’s Longspurs wintered easterly in Cotton, OK (L&MT, m.ob.). Snow Buntings wintered in low numbers this year and reports came only from Nebraska. The highest count was 6, in Lancaster 14 Feb (JBe). A Lark Bunting in northeastern Kansas in Pottawatomie 19 Jan (T&SS) was extralimital. A Chipping Sparrow was at McConaughy 5 Jan (BE). However, Chippings are becoming more regular in Kansas during winter (CO). 3 Field Sparrows in Buffalo, NE 23 Jan (JN) and Fox Sparrows in Harlan, NE 14 Dec (JGJ) and Buffalo, NE 23 Dec and 11 Jan (JN) were all westerly. The only eastern report of “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco was one in Dixon, NE 18 Dec (PR). Rare westerly finds in Nebraska included a Harris’s Sparrow in Scotts Bluff 22 Dec (SM, JBa, CWo), a White-throated Sparrow in Lincoln 16 Feb (JLv), a Lincoln’s Sparrow in Scotts Bluff 22 Dec (SM, JBa, CWo), and a Swamp Sparrow in Keith 4 Jan (SM, DE). A Vesper Sparrow in Washington, NE 15 Dec (CP) was further north than typical, as were LeConte’s Sparrows in Johnson, KS 15 Feb (JWi) and Marion, KS 25 Feb (LH).  3 Canyon Towhees were reported from Morton, KS 3 & 25 Jan (MN) where they are rare. Spotted Towhees were notable northwesterly to Scotts Bluff, NE 22 Dec (SM) and Dundy, NE 29 Feb (SM).  Eastern Towhee was also in better numbers for mid-winter than usual in southeastern Nebraska (fide WRS); in Kansas, Easterns were also noted west to Barber 4 Jan (DL) and Dickinson 18 Jan (KK).

Late Yellow-headed Blackbirds were recorded in Sarpy, NE 2 Jan (JGJ) and Major, OK 28 Dec (ZP).  An Orchard Oriole in Payne, OK 1 Jan (AH) was exceptional. More regular Baltimore Orioles were in Sedgwick, KS 11 Dec (JBi), Comanche, OK 26 Dec-3 Jan (KM), and Delaware, OK 16-31 Jan (SP). 10 Brown-headed Cowbirds at 2 Scotts Bluff, NE locations 5 Jan (PR) were outside normal winter limits. Rusty Blackbirds out of expected winter range included one in Holt, NE 4 Jan (SB), and 2 west to Cimarron, OK 20 Jan (DSm), 30 in Woodward, OK 28 Dec (ZP), and up to 45 in Alfalfa, OK 31 Jan-28 Feb (CSt). Brewer’s Blackbird lingered in Nebraska, with latest report of 20 in Lincoln 3 Jan (BE). Among the slew of less-hardy birds that wintered further north this season were 4 Orange-crowned Warblers. The northernmost of these was in Lancaster, NE 26 Jan (MW, BWi). Common Yellowthroat also showed well in the region; up to 8 in Alfalfa, northern OK (CSt) were notable; “many” were in Johnston/Bryan, OK during the period (DWo); 3 reports came from Kansas [one in Douglas 6-7 Jan (RB), 2 in Barber 4 Jan (PJ), and one in Neosho 20-21 Dec (AB)]; and one was in Lancaster, NE 13 Dec (KS). Exceptional for range and season was a Palm Warbler in Tulsa, OK 20 Feb (GH, MT). A northerly Pine Warbler was in Jackson, KS 7 Dec (LZ). An “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler, at McConaughy 21 Feb (BP, RS), was an unusual find. Summer Tanagers added to the list of wintering neotropical species: they were recorded in Jefferson, KS 3 Dec (MP), Johnson, KS 27 Dec and 14 Feb (MC), Tulsa, OK 20 Jan (DJ), and a second individual in Tulsa, OK  25 Dec (ZP).  Northern Cardinals are still rare on the Nebraska Pine Ridge; one in north Sheridan 28 Feb (D&MW) was notable. Continuing the regional trend of lingering passerines this winter, Dickcissels were in 3 Kansas counties into Dec: Pottawatomie 5 Dec (DR), Riley 15 Dec (MM), and Coffey 20 Dec (MG).

Report processed by Alison Világ, 27 Sep 2020.

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Winter 2019-20
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.