Southern Great Plains: Winter 2020–2021

Winter 20202021: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Joseph A. Grzybowski

W. Ross Silcock

Recommended citation:

Grzybowski, J. A., and W.R. Silcock. 2021. Winter 20202021: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds.

This season was marked with the increasingly expected in recent times—many species across a broad taxonomic array wintering more northerly, at least until mid-February when an exceptionally harsh cold snap with ice and snow across the region made such a poor choice.   Eastern Bluebirds may have been especially hard hit by this storm in Oklahoma.  More patterns may become apparent in the coming season’s data.  Before the storm, there was more than the usual array of half-hardies and lingering neotropical migrants.

While some species that normally winter farther north of the region have been withdrawing their winter ranges northward, an exception this season before the harsh mid-February storm was American Tree Sparrow.  With the mid-February storm came a scatter of more northerly species into Oklahoma, although not overwhelmingly so.  

This season was also marked by irruptions of a fair number of passerines, but in a mixed pattern sub-regionally.  Higher than normal counts were made in northwestern Nebraska for species such as Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches.  There was a mild invasion of Mountain Chickadees in the western region.  Mountain Bluebirds made an outstanding eastward push into central Oklahoma, but less so in Nebraska.  Purple Finches were exceptionally abundant in eastern and central Oklahoma this season.  White-winged Crossbills, while quite rare in much of the region, made a better than normal showing in eastern Nebraska; however, the show of the more expected Red Crossbill was limited and scattered. Pine Siskins may have been the most broadly abundant to more common species this winter across the Region.  Common Redpolls, on the other hand, barely made a showing in Nebraska, where they regularly occur during winter.

Sub-regional compilers:  

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


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms WMA., Barton Co, KS); CBC (Christmas Bird Count); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat WMA., Tillman Co, OK); Hefner (L. Hefner, Oklahoma Co, OK); McConaughy (L. McConaughy Res., 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); Sowbelly Canyon (Sowbelly Canyon, Souix Co, NE); Wichita Mountains (Wichita Mountains WR, Comanche Co, OK).

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck through mergansers

A tardy Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was at Red Slough 14 Dec (David Arbour, Zach Poland, Landon Neumann). The 11,000 Cackling Geese in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 22 Jan (Steve Mlodinow) was an excellent midwinter tally. Trumpeter Swans winter in eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma; noteworthy were one southward in Bryan Co, OK  21 Feb (Doug Wood), with more westerly records of two in Oklahoma Co, OK 19 Feb (Brent Barnes), five in Payne Co, OK  17–18 Feb (Mike Yough, m. ob.), and one in Scott Co, KS 11 Feb (Christopher Frick, Adam Vesely). Numbers of wintering Trumpeters continue to increase in Nebraska; best counts were 210 at DeSoto NWR, Washington Co 7 Feb (Carla Delucchi), and 200 in Lincoln Co 18 Feb (Laurie DeWispelaere). More Tundra Swans are reported during winter each year, perhaps influenced by the presence of Trumpeters; southernmost were about 30 reported this season in northeastern Oklahoma (fide Joe Grzybowski) including 14 in Osage Co, OK 29–30 Jan (Landon Neumann et al.).  

Blue-winged Teal usually winters south of the region, but singles were documented in Johnston Co, OK 19 Dec (Justin Roach) and Carter Co, OK 8 Jan (Don Pearson). Four Blue-wingeds arrived early in Oklahoma Co, OK 9 Feb (Sharon Henthorn). Quite unexpected were Jan-early Feb reports of Cinnamon Teal, two at Quivira 8 Jan (Mike Radar) and three, likely early migrants, at Hackberry Flat 5 Feb (Lou & Mary Truex). American Black Duck now only fringes the region as rarities in eastern Nebraska and northeast Kansas; this season one was well-described in Platte Co, NE 20 Feb (Scott Buss), and another was in Douglas Co, KS 20 Dec–2 Jan (Roger Boyd, photo; m. ob.).  Also rare in the region, a Mottled Duck was at Red Slough 29 Dec–14 Jan (David Arbour). 

Pockets of Greater Scaup in the region were 200 in Cedar Co, NE through 5 Jan (Caleb Strand) and 343–430 at Hefner through 8 Jan (Bill Diffin), latter decreasing to 62 on 23 Feb (Bill Diffin). About 12 Surf Scoters were reported in Oklahoma through the period from five locations (fide Joe Grzybowski), including best tally of seven at Hefner 13 and 19 Dec (Bill Diffin). Hefner hosted White-winged Scoters as well, with one to two there 3 Dec–26 Jan (Bill Diffin, m. ob.); the only others were two–three at Lake Overholser, Oklahoma Co, OK 6 Jan–6 Feb (Brian Marra, m. ob.), and singles in Lancaster Co, NE 18 Dec (fide Joseph Gubanyi) and at McConaughy 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore). Topping off the scoters in Oklahoma were about six Black Scoters, including one to two at Hefner 3–31 Dec (Brent Barnes, Braden Farris) and two in Jefferson Co 28 Dec–8 Jan (Ben Sandstrom, Lou & Mary Truex). Elsewhere, a Black Scoter was rather late in Cedar Co, NE 8–13 Dec (Caleb Strand). 

Long-tailed Ducks were widespread in Oklahoma and Kansas in groups of 1–3 (fide Joe Grzybowski), with about eight at three Nebraska locations (fide W. Ross Silcock). Barrow’s Goldeneye may enter the region from western and eastern North American breeding populations, although difficult to assign; singles were in Lincoln Co, NE 17 Jan (Boni Edwards, m. ob.), Osage Co, KS 7 Jan (Mark Pheasant) and Douglas Co, KS 11 Feb (Peter Grund, m. ob.). Continuing a recent pattern were a few Hooded Mergansers wintering in Nebraska north and west of expected; singles were in Cedar Co through 6 Jan (Gregory Pavelka), and in Madison Co 1318 Feb (Scott Buss, m. ob.). The 1176 Common Mergansers in Alfalfa Co 3 Feb (Glen Hensley) was a good northern Oklahoma tally. Southernmost Common Mergansers in Oklahoma were as many as 150 in Jefferson Co 20 Feb (Scotty Lofland), and 16 in Carter Co 20 Feb (Don Pearson), after the significant mid-February cold snap.  

Grebes through yellowlegs

Several Red-necked Grebes, regional rarities, lingered rather late, including one northerly at McConaughy 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore); others were one in Crawford Co, KS 5 Dec (Alex Marine), two in Linn Co, KS 8 Jan13 Feb (Janet Reynolds, m. ob.), and one at Hefner 11 Dec14 Jan (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, m. ob.).  Northerly and tardy in Nebraska were single Eared Grebes in Lancaster Co 11 Dec (Larry Einemann, m. ob.) and Burt Co 13 Dec (Paul Timm); more than the usual wintered in Oklahoma and Tulsa Cos, OK Jan-Feb (fide Joe Grzybowski). At McConaughy, 98 Western Grebes were counted 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore) and 40 on 10 Jan (Michael Willison); one was easterly in Crawford Co, KS 521 Dec (Alex Marine), and fivesix were scattered across Oklahoma at five locations 2 Dec17 Feb (fide Joe Grzybowski). A Clark’s Grebe at McConaughy lingered quite late through 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore); the only other report was of a bird in Russell Co, KS 3 Jan (Mike Radar). An Inca Dove, a regional rarity away from the southern Oklahoma border was in Pratt Co, KS 31 Dec (Brian Fisher, Duane Panek). Anna’s Hummingbird has been reported more often the past couple of years; whether this is due to better observer knowledge or more frequent vagrancy is uncertain. One was in Butler Co, KS 9 Dec31 Jan (Peter Janzen, Kevin Groeneweg, Jeremy Birket). The only Rufous Hummingbird reported was in Pittsburg Co, OK before and after 13 Dec, when documented (David Beall). 

The 12 Virginia Rails at McConaughy 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore) was a good winter tally that far north.  Far less cold tolerant is Sora; one was in Johnston Co, OK 5 Jan (Justin Roach) where it has become more regular during winter (fide Doug Wood). Uncommonly tardy were one to two Common Gallinules at Red Slough 1021 Dec (David Arbour). Continuing a trend noted since winter 20112012, several hundred Sandhill Cranes wintered in Hall Co, NE, peaking at 1000 on 29 Dec (Rita Flohr, Paul Dunbar, m. ob.). Late Sandhills in Kansas were one in both Jefferson and Douglas Cos through much of the period (fide Chuck Otte), and another in Johnson Co, KS 19 Dec (Kelli Egbert). Also a tardy surprise were two Whooping Cranes in Alfalfa Co, OK 2 Dec (Glen Hensley). 

Continuing tardy patterns were two American Avocets at Quivira 18 Jan (Glenn Caspers), one at Cheyenne Bottoms 5 Dec (Heidi Beardsley), two in Alfalfa Co, OK 20 Dec (Curtis Stewart) and one in Johnston Co, OK 29 Dec (Justin Roach). Up to five Long-billed Curlews wintered at Hackberry Flat (Lou & Mary Truex, m. ob.). Amazing was a lone Baird’s Sandpiper at Quivira 6 Feb (Andrew Miller, Michael Miller).  Long-billed Dowitcher is expected during winter in Oklahoma in small numbers, but the 178 at Hackberry Flat 5 Feb (Lou & Mary Truex) was a high tally. At northern limits, single American Woodcocks were in Douglas Co, KS 11 Dec (Nicholaus Pumphrey) and Johnson Co, KS 10 Dec (Jeff Witters). A Spotted Sandpiper in Cleveland Co, OK 1 Jan and 1 Feb (Tomasz Kudor, John Tharp) was northerly for the dates. A Lesser Yellowlegs lingered through 26 Dec at Quivira (Alice Boyle), and twosix were present at Hackberry Flat 5 Jan and 5 Feb (Lou & Mary Truex). Greater Yellowlegs is now expected in Oklahoma into winter; most northerly were four in Linn Co, KS 10 Jan (Kathy Carroll) and one in Reno Co, KS 4 Feb (Mark Nolen).

Gulls through ibises

A few Franklin’s Gulls manage odd winter appearances in Oklahoma; singles were in Canadian Co, OK 6 Jan6 Feb (Braden Farris, m. ob.) and Tulsa Co, OK 23 Jan (Zach Poland). The only Mew Gull reported was at McConaughy 2 Jan (fide Stephen J. Dinsmore) and 9 Feb (Steve Mlodinow). California Gull is rare during winter, most at McConaughy, where peak count among numerous reports was 19 on 9 Dec (Steve Mlodinow). The other reports of California Gull were onetwo adults at Hefner 6 Dec12 Feb (Bill Carrell, Bill Diffin, Joe Grzybowski), a first-cycle bird in Cleveland Co 20 Dec (Joe Grzybowski), one in Linn Co, KS 2021 Jan (Malcolm Gold et al.), onetwo in Douglas Co, KS 26 Jan5 Feb (m. ob.), one in Jefferson Co, KS 5 Feb (Mick McHugh), and two adults in Canadian Co 5 Feb (Joe Grzybowski). A high tally of Herring Gulls was 770 at McConaughy 9 Dec (Steve Mlodinow). Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were quite numerous at McConaughy this winter, with best count of 14 on 9 Dec (Steve Mlodinow), at least 15 from nine locations in Kansas (fide Joe Grzybowski), and seven–eight in Oklahoma from six locations during the period (fide Joe Grzybowski). Pale Iceland Gulls, possibly “Kumlien’s” or “swarm hybrids” were in Lancaster Co, NE 19 and 28 Dec (Michael Willison) and Canadian Co, OK 16 Jan13 Feb (Jimmy Woodard, Joe Grzybowski, m. ob.). 

Becoming routine, numerous Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported; up to 10 were in Oklahoma during the period (fide Joe Grzybowski) and a record 19 were at McConaughy 19 Dec (Steve Mlodinow). Four Glaucous Gulls made it south to Oklahoma, singles in Alfalfa Co 28 Jan (Joe Grzybowski), Payne Co 1527 Feb (Scott Loss), and at two locations in Oklahoma Co 2127 Feb (Jacob Crissup, Braden Farris, Bill Carrell). A very small adult Glaucous Gull at McConaughy 9 Feb was initially thought to be a glaucoides Iceland Gull, but was finally determined to be a Glaucous Gull, possibly of the subspecies barrovianus (Steve Mlodinow, photo).  The only Great Black-backed Gulls were an adult at McConaughy 9 Dec (Steve Mlodinow), possibly the same individual as there in Sep, a first-cycle bird in Douglas Co, KS 24 Jan11 Feb (m. ob.), and possibly the same bird in Linn Co, KS 28 Feb (Malcolm Gold). 

A Red-throated Loon was unexpected at Denison Dam, Bryan Co, OK 2 Feb (Doug Wood), but one at Lake Tenkiller, Cherokee Co, OK 12 Feb (Joe Neal, Vivek Govind Kunar) was at a regular wintering site. Pacific Loon also winters each year at Lake Tenkiller, Cherokee and Sequoyah Cos, OK; best count was three there 12 Dec (Joe Neal, Vivek Govind Kunar). A Pacific in Russel Co, KS continued until at least 21 Jan (Kathy Carroll, m. ob.), and one at Hefner 6 Dec17 Jan (Bill Carrell, m. ob.) was a rare visitor there.  A Yellow-billed Loon wintering away from Oklahoma during winter is a regional “zootie;” one continuing from fall in Russell Co, KS was still present 3 Feb (Bob Gress, Dave Klema). Neotropic Cormorants may winter in several southern Oklahoma cos (fide Ben Sandstrom); one at Red Slough 9 Feb (David Arbour), however, was thought to be an early migrant. Brown Pelican is a regional rarity; one was in Carter Co, OK 12 Dec (Don Pearson, Lou & Mary Truex). Rare winter bitterns were an American at Cheyenne Bottoms 12 Jan (Lauren Jarboe) and, most exceptionally, a Least Bittern north in Douglas Co, KS 28 Jan3 Feb (Glenn Caspers). Rare winter egrets were a Great north to Miami Co, KS 30 Dec1 Feb (Mick McHugh) and a Snowy in Oklahoma Co, OK 19 Dec2 Feb (fide Joe Grzybowski). Apparent urban enclaves for wintering Black-crowned Night-Herons occur in Oklahoma City where up to 20 occurred (fide Joe Grzybowski) and Wichita, KS where up to 6 were noted (via eBird).  A single sub-adult Black-crowned Night-Heron was located in Cowley Co, KS 1 Feb (David Seibel). White Ibis remained at Red Slough trickling from 20 juveniles on 3 Dec to two on 17 Dec (David Arbour). White-faced Ibises lingering in Kansas included singles at Quivira 26 Dec (Alice Boyle) and in Douglas Co 10 Dec (Peter Grund).

Black Vulture through falcons

Westerly outliers were the four Black Vultures in Blaine Co, OK 12 Dec (Curtis Stewart). Unexpected during winter were single Ospreys as far north as Linn Co, KS 10 Jan6 Feb (Kathy Carroll) and in Carter Co, OK 28 Dec (Lou & Mary Truex). Easterly Golden Eagles were reported in all three regional states; most noteworthy were single birds at Red Slough 14 and 29 Dec (David Arbour), and adults in Dixon Co, NE 1618 Dec (Jason Thiele) and in Sarpy Co, NE 28 Feb (Allen Reyer). A surprising five Northern Goshawks were documented across Nebraska during the period (fide W. Ross Silcock), with three as far south as Kansas: singles in Barber Co 2 Jan (Peter Janzen), Marion Co 25 Dec (Kevin Groeneweg), and Nemaha Co 21 Jan (John Row). A rare southwestern vagrant, a Harris’s Hawk, was reported in Clark Co, KS 7 Jan6 Feb (Vern Tunnell, photo; m. ob.). A westerly Red-shouldered Hawk was in Adams Co, NE 5 Feb (Paul Dunbar). Southernmost Rough-legged Hawks were singles at Hackberry Flat 22 Dec31 Jan (Nathan Moses, Ben Sandstrom, m. ob.) and in Sequoyah Co, OK 1 Jan (Alton Patton). Rare easterly Ferruginous Hawks were in Johnston Co, OK 19 Feb (Justin Roach) and Wheeler Co, NE 28 Dec (Sam Manning, photo).  

All three regional states had Snowy Owls, although the total number reported was only 11; furthest south were Oklahoma singles in Blaine Co 8 Dec (Terry McGraw) and Garfield Co 12 Jan (Curtis Stewart). The popularity of this species was reflected in that the 70+ reports in Nebraska boiled down to only five individuals (fide W. Ross Silcock); four were detected in Kansas (fide Chuck Otte), including the last for the region in Jackson Co 24 Feb (Don Merz). Often hard to find, a Long-eared Owl was in Osage Co, OK 2 Jan (Josh Engelbert). Northern Saw-whet Owl was also well-reported in Nebraska with 12 birds at nine locations statewide, more than usual; best count was three in Sowbelly Canyon 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). A juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker quite late and far westerly continued from fall in Kimball Co, NE through 12 Dec (Steve Mlodinow). Northerly winter Yellow-bellieds in Nebraska were singles in Antelope Co 29 Jan (William Flack) and Thomas Co 28 Dec (Sam Manning). Lewis’s Woodpecker appears to have a local outlier outpost in the Wichita Mountains where it reappears most winters in recent years; one was there this season through the period (fide Joe Grzybowski). At an unexpected northwesterly location for Kansas was a Pileated Woodpecker in Jewell Co 17 Dec (Henry Armknecht). 

Crested Caracara is still a rare find even in southern Oklahoma; one was in Cotton Co, OK 25 Feb (Ben Sandstrom). At least one adult Peregrine Falcon was seen at the Omaha and Lincoln nest sites in Nebraska during winter (Sam Manning, Larry Einemann) where these established pairs tend to be resident, as may have been one in Tulsa, Tulsa Co, OK 12 Dec (Bill Carrell). Easterly Prairie Falcons in Oklahoma were in Johnston Co 3 Jan (Jenny Moen Bothell, photo) and Okfuskee Co 5 Feb (Brian Marra). An apparent single Gyrfalcon, certainly an Oklahoma “zootie,” was wandering Osage Co and reported 23 Dec and 2 and 13 Feb (Steve Metz, Jim Hoffman, Charles Brown, Ken Williams). 

Flycatchers through wrens

A Cordilleran/Pacific-slope Flycatcher in Johnston Co, OK 712 Dec was thought to be a Pacific-slope Flycatcher by call response and bill length (Justin Roach, Joe Grzybowski); evaluation of genetic material may determine final identification. At least four Eastern Phoebes remained in Kansas during Jan; singles in Chautauqua Co 12 Jan (Patty Marlett), Reno Co 23 Jan (Joseph Miller), Linn Co 23 Jan (Corey Entriken), and Clark Co 25 Jan (Joseph Miller). Winter vagrant Say’s Phoebes occurred eastward in Oklahoma to Logan Co 1 Dec (Steve Davis), Noble Co 69 Dec (Curtis Stewart, Brian Marra), Payne Co 19 Jan7 Feb (Mike Yough, m. ob.), and Cleveland Co 31 Jan (Joe Grzybowski, John Tharp, Cody Delano). The latest Say’s Phoebe reported in Kansas was in Sumner Co 8 Dec (Faith Shapley-Queen). Exceptional during winter was a White-eyed Vireo at Red Slough 17 Dec (David Arbour). Possibly the same Blue-headed Vireo was fringing its expected winter range in Johnston Co, OK 7 Dec and 28 Jan (Justin Roach). 

Fish Crows appeared early in Kansas; one was calling in Johnson Co 17 Jan (Kathy Carroll, Malcolm Gold, Corey Entriken) and three were northerly in Douglas Co 25 Feb (Kim Sain). Chihuahuan Raven appears to be re-establishing its 100th meridian range in Harmon Co, OK, where onetwo was found 31 Dec (John-Edd Brown) and 17 Jan (Braden Farris, Dillon Freiburger). Nebraska’s first documented record of Common Raven in about 95 years was one near Harrison, Sioux Co 1 Jan (Kathy DeLara) and seen by many through 4 Jan (fide W. Ross Silcock). Reports in western Nebraska in recent years had been conspicuously lacking in documentation until now (W. Ross Silcock).  A good tally of Horned Larks was the 5000 in Kimball Co, NE 26 Jan (John Vanderpoel, Kelly Ormesher).  A struggling Tree Swallow was in Jefferson Co, KS on the unusual midwinter date of 20 Jan (Mark Pheasant).

Black-capped Chickadee rarely reaches Oklahoma; one noted during fall in Cimarron Co continued through 4 Jan (fide Joe Grzybowski). Large numbers of Black-capped Chickadees were reported on the Nebraska Pine Ridge; high count was 93 in Sowbelly Canyon 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). Mountain Chickadees appeared in higher numbers than usual in the Nebraska Panhandle, and east to Lincoln Co (fide W. Ross Silcock).  At least six Mountain Chickadees were reported in western Kansas; one continuing in Gove Co through 4 Feb (Kelli Egbert), onethree in Finney Co 19 Dec20 Jan (Sara Shane, Quentin Nolan), two in Morton Co 2 Jan (Andrew Miller, m. ob.), and singles in Stevens Co 12 Jan (Jim Malcom) and Grant Co 11 Feb (Sam Guy). Large numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches were on the Nebraska Pine Ridge; best count was 78 in Sowbelly Canyon 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). There is some movement in winter from breeding areas by both White-breasted Nuthatch subspecies in Nebraska; wandering White-breasted Nuthatches of the eastern carolinensis subspecies were found westward to the Pine Ridge, where breeders are mountain subspecies nelsoni.  The only report of nelsoni away from the Pine Ridge was at McConaughy 1 Feb (Steve Mlodinow). Sowbelly Canyon had a record 55 Pygmy Nuthatches there 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). 

A Rock Wren wandering easterly was detected in Payne Co, OK 23 Jan (Landon Neumann) and a House Wren was northerly in Garfield Co, OK 10 Dec (Curtis Stewart). Several Winter Wrens were noted in northern and western Nebraska, continuing a recent northward trend (fide W. Ross Silcock). Similarly, a Sedge Wren was westerly in Oklahoma to Noble Co 5 and 28 Dec (Landon Neumann), and two were surprisingly in Oklahoma Co 10 Jan (Brian Marra, Braden Farris, Grace Huffman). At least one of each Marsh Wren subspecies, eastern plesius (surprisingly) and western palustris, were documented in Dundy Co, NE among the 13 Marsh Wrens there 26 Dec (Steve Mlodinow). Some preliminary counts using Nebraska eBird data before and after the severe cold 1516 Feb suggested a decline of about 50% in numbers of Carolina Wrens (Joseph Gubanyi).

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher through pipits

A major midwinter surprise was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Tulsa Co, OK 17 Jan (Scott Loss). An Eastern Bluebird in Morrill Co, NE 20 Jan (Joseph Cooney) was westerly for midwinter. Western Bluebird is unexpected anywhere in the region; six were photographed in the Wichita Mountains 2 Jan (Jeff Fitzgerald, photos). Mountain Bluebirds invaded to central Oklahoma, with “masses” through early Feb (fide Joe Grzybowski); an amazing 95 were tallied in Cleveland and Oklahoma Cos 14 Jan (Braden Farris) and 3 flocks comprising a total of 33 birds were in Payne Co 12 Dec (Landon Neumann). Numbers of Mountain Bluebirds were good in Nebraska across the north but not at irruption levels; best count was the easterly 40 on a Boone Co CBC 28 Dec (fide Jason Thiel). Easterly Townsend’s Solitaires were in Sarpy Co, NE 14 Dec (Elizabeth Winter) and Alfalfa Co, OK 20 Dec (Curtis Stewart). Nebraska and Kansas each had two reports of Varied Thrush; in Saunders Co, NE 2429 Dec (Marcia Lampman), Jefferson Co, KS 24 Dec4 Jan (Malcolm Gold), Geary Co, KS 29 Dec27 Jan (Mica Stites), and Lancaster Co, NE 1316 Feb (Katherine Putensen, m. ob.). 

A quite northerly Gray Catbird was in Saunders Co, NE 30 Dec (Sam Manning) and northerly catbirds in Oklahoma were in Oklahoma Co 1326 Dec (Brent Barnes, Grace Huffman), and at separate locations in Payne Co 13 Jan7 Feb (Alex Harman, m. ob.) and 6 Feb (Mike Yough). In its sometimes Oklahoma range were Curve-billed Thrashers at two locations in Jackson Co 13 Jan (Larry Mays) and 1621 Jan (Jacob Crissup, Taylor Harting, m. ob.); one in Caddo Co 14 Feb (Lori Flansburg) was exceptional. A rare Nebraska Jan report of Brown Thrasher was of one in Lancaster Co 13 Jan (Linda Sullivan, Dominic Cristiano). Somewhat out of range were a Sage Thrasher in the Wichita Mountains 3 Jan (Brian Marra, Pia Alexander et al.), and one in Morton Co, KS 3 Dec (Jeremy Webster). A tardy American Pipit in Cedar Co, NE 1 Jan (Caleb Strand) was eclipsed by a midwinter single in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 22 Jan (Steve Mlodinow) and near-record early three in Frontier Co, NE 27 Feb (Jason St. Sauver). Sprague’s Pipit is rare in Oklahoma during winter and becoming even more rare; one was noted in Osage Co 11 Jan (Josh Lefever).


An Evening Grosbeak in Payne, OK 21 Feb (Mike Yough) was an unexpected “oddball” there; the two other reports were singles, still rare, in Sioux Co, NE 6 Dec and 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). Much more unexpected was a Pine Grosbeak in Johnson Co, KS 18 Feb (Niki Bowen). Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches were reported from three favored Nebraska sites; up to 70 were at one location in Sioux Co 217 Jan (fide W. Ross Silcock), up to 117 were at another 626 Dec (Nancy Drilling, Kathy DeLara, Steve Mlodinow), and 36 were at Scotts Bluff NM, Scotts Bluff Co 35 Jan (Caleb Strand, Ed Brogie, Lee Brogie). Purple Finch reports in Nebraska fizzled out after fall, but with two very westerly in Sioux Co 6 Dec (Steve Mlodinow) and Scotts Bluff Co 20 and 29 Dec (Kathy DeLara). However, eastern and central Oklahoma saw a major surge of Purple Finches with many blanketing this area (fide Joe Grzybowski). Quite the exception for even west-central Oklahoma was a Cassin’s Finch in Caddo Co 5 Feb (Tim & Elizabeth Pratt, photo). Less unusual in Nebraska were as many as 17 in Sioux Co 56 Dec (Elizabeth Winter, Steve Mlodinow), and two–three in Scotts Bluff Co 14 Dec6 Feb (Kathy DeLara, Steve Mlodinow). Yet another rare finch for Oklahoma was a Common Redpoll in Oklahoma Co 15 Feb (Nanci Moll); three made it to Kansas, in Wyandotte Co 26 Dec (Dan Dundon), Riley Co 31 Dec (Kathy Carroll, Diane Persons), and Barton Co 13 Feb (Rob Penner). However, it was a mediocre redpoll year in Nebraska, with only 12+ birds reported at seven locations statewide (fide W. Ross Silcock). 

Continuing “oddball” winter finches were a Red Crossbill in Oklahoma Co, OK 13 Jan (Rachel Overturf), onethree in Tulsa Co, OK 25 Dec23 Jan (Zach Poland, Curtis Stewart, Steve Metz), and five in Kiowa Co, KS 19 Feb (Jeff Calhoun). Observers recording Red Crossbill call types in Nebraska found several of the other-than-expected Type 2 call.  The first Nebraska records of Type 10 were at opposite ends of the state, one at McConaughy 9 Jan (Caleb Strand), one in Scotts Bluff Co 10 Jan (Caleb Strand, Kadynn Hatfield), and five in Douglas Co 31 Jan (Sam Manning) A Type 4 was recorded in Sioux Co 6 Feb (Steve Mlodinow). Part of the mixed pattern for fringillids in the region, this was a good winter for the rare White-winged Crossbill in Nebraska; about 35 were reported from several locations mostly in the east as expected, with best count of 12 in Madison Co 19 Dec (Paul Timm, Caleb Strand, Ed Brogie), and one westerly in Lincoln Co 9 Feb (Boni Edwards, photo). Two White-wingeds were found in Kansas where much rarer: singles in Ford Co 68 Dec (Christi McMillen) and in Nemaha Co 30 Dec11 Jan (William Brannan). 

The season was outstanding for Pine Siskins in Nebraska with thousands noted (fide W. Ross Silcock), best count about 520 at Wildcat Hills RA, Scotts Bluff Co on 22 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). Siskins were generally more abundant in Kansas and Oklahoma as well. Winter reports of Lesser Goldfinch continue to increase; no fewer than 20 were reported from 13 locations in all three states, an exceptional number.  Several were quite far east, especially in Johnson Co, KS 5 Dec (Corey Entriken), Jefferson Co, KS 13 Dec (Mark Robbins), Cowley Co, KS 8 Jan (Max Thompson) and in Cherokee Co, OK 1415 Feb (April Hathcoat). Best counts of Lessers were in Oklahoma: onethree in Oklahoma Co 13 Dec1 Jan (Steve Davis) and twothree in Cleveland Co 124 Feb (John Tharp, Rachel Wrenn).

Smith’s Longspur through Spotted Towhee

A northerly-for-season Smith’s Longspur was in Pawnee Co, NE 28 Dec (Thomas E. Labedz, photo); another two were westerly in Republic Co, KS 6 Feb (Scott Seltman). A lingering Lark Sparrow was in Saunders Co, NE 1415 Dec (Paula Hoppe, photo). A Lark Bunting was a bit easterly in Clark Co, KS 9 Jan (Jeff Calhoun). Also northerly for the season were a Grasshopper Sparrow in Oklahoma Co, OK 2 Jan (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman), Chipping Sparrows in Douglas Co, NE 5 Jan and 13 Feb (Thane Dinsdale, photos), Seward Co, NE 27 Jan1 Feb (T.J. Walker) and Johnson Co, KS through 12 Dec (Corey Entriken), a Brewer’s Sparrow in Morton Co, KS 2 Jan (Joseph Miller et al., photo), and a Field Sparrow in Lancaster Co, NE 10 Jan (Linda Sullivan, photo).  Exceptionally late was a Clay-colored Sparrow in Oklahoma Co, OK 8 Dec (Brian Marra). Westerly Fox Sparrows were in Cimarron Co, OK 2 Jan (Larry Mayes) and Lincoln Co, NE 14 Dec (Linda Deeds). Good numbers of American Tree Sparrows were reported on Nebraska CBCs (fide Don & Janis Paseka), with smaller numbers reaching farther south this season to central Oklahoma, southernmost three in Bryan Co, OK 28 Dec (Doug Wood). Often difficult to separate from related intergrades, especially in the eastern region, Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Juncos were well-documented at five Nebraska locations from Hall Co eastward (fide W. Ross Silcock) and three locations in Cleveland Co, OK 28 Dec17 Feb (fide Joe Grzybowski). Unexpectedly large numbers (“insane”, Steve Mlodinow) of Dark-eyed (White-winged) Juncos were wintering on the Nebraska Pine Ridge as exemplified by record counts of 93 at Chadron Creek WMA, Dawes Co 29 Jan (Steve Mlodinow) and 65 in Sowbelly Canyon 6 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). A White-winged farther south was in Cimarron Co, OK 15 Jan (Wyatt Egelhoff), where unusual. 

The first-ever regional Yellow-eyed Junco continued at Lake Scott SP in Scott Co, KS through the period (Bob Gress; fide Chuck Otte). A northerly extralimital here was a Rufous-crowned Sparrow 6 Dec3 Feb (Brandon Magette). A report by an experienced observer of a Golden-crowned Sparrow in Gage Co, NE 18 Jan (T.J. Walker) was forwarded to the Nebraska Bird Records Committee. Rare in the Nebraska Panhandle was a Harris’s Sparrow in Scotts Bluff Co 22 Jan (Steve Mlodinow). Vesper and Savannah Sparrows were numerous and more northerly than usual in Oklahoma (fide Joe Grzybowski), extending into the Oklahoma Panhandle. The first documented Dec and Jan records of LeConte’s Sparrow for Nebraska were of singles in Lancaster Co 17 Dec (Sam Manning) and continuing in Douglas Co from 30 Nov through 5 Jan (Sam Manning, photo).  Lincoln’s Sparrows also fared northerly in Nebraska to Cuming Co, NE 3 Jan (William Flack) and Lancaster Co, NE 29 Jan (Larry Einemann), with one unexpectedly westerly in Cimarron Co, OK 2 Jan (Larry Mayes). Single Swamp Sparrows lingered northerly in Dundy Co, NE 26 Dec (Steve Mlodinow) and Lincoln Co, NE 3 Jan (Caleb Strand), as did a Spotted Towhee in Knox Co, NE 12 Feb (Deb Hansen).

Icterids through Dickcissel

Yellow-headed Blackbirds, rare during winter in the region were found north to Lincoln Co, NE 20 Dec (J. Freyberg), Kimball Co, NE 9 Jan (Steve Mlodinow) and Douglas Co, KS 20 Feb (Terry Mannell); up to six were in Harper Co, OK 28 Feb (Gayle Cachert). Baltimore Orioles occasionally attempt wintering; one was at a feeder in Johnson Co, KS 1823 Dec (Dawn Bayless) with another in Oklahoma Co, OK 16 Dec (MNa). Westerly Rusty Blackbirds in Oklahoma were one in Cimarron Co 2 Jan (Larry Mayes), fournine in the Wichita Mountains 526 Jan (Jacob Crissup, m. ob.), and 2346 in Garfield Co 1026 Feb (Curtis Stewart). In Nebraska during winter, Great-tailed Grackle counts are increasing; 65 were westerly in Cheyenne Co 10 Jan (Caleb Strand, Kadynn Hatfield), 40+ northerly in Cherry Co 17 Jan (Nicole Louden fide James E. Ducey), and 200 in Hall Co 19 Dec (Steve Morris). 

Apparently the first regional winter record of Northern Waterthrush was one in Reno Co, KS 323 Jan (Andrew Miller, m. ob.). Of eight total Jan-Feb records of Orange-crowned Warbler in Nebraska, five occurred this winter, all in the southeast 5 Dec4 Feb (fide W. Ross Silcock). The most northerly Common Yellowthroat detected this season was in Clark Co, KS 25 Jan (Joseph Miller, Andrew Miller). A Palm Warbler in Pottawatomie Co, KS 1326 Dec (Lynette Mueller, photo) was an exceptional winter find, and a Pine Warbler was northerly in Otoe Co, NE 4 Dec (Connie Nelson Rathbun).  Another unexpected wintering neotropical migrant was a Yellow-throated Warbler in Lancaster Co, NE 727 Jan (Cheryl Samusevich, m. ob., photo). Equally unexpected was a Summer Tanager in Tulsa Co, OK 14 Feb (Jennifer Cohen). North and east of their expected southwest edge-of-Oklahoma range were single Pyrrhuloxias in Oklahoma Co 25 Jan3 Feb (Brian Marra, m. ob.) and in Comanche Co 912 Feb (Kurt Meisenzahl, Roxie Ford). Other unexpected neotrops north were a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Hall Co, NE 6 Jan (Denise Wiese, photo), a male Painted Bunting in Harvey Co, KS 24 Jan (Carolyn Schwab), and Dickcissels in Rush Co, KS 1 Dec (Henry Armknecht) and Johnston Co, OK 31 Dec (Justin Roach). 

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Winter 2020–2021

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