Southern Great Plains2020-12-03T11:39:25-05:00

Southern Great Plains

Joseph A. Grzybowski and W. Ross Silcock, Regional Report Compilers

The three states comprising the Southern Great Plains region—Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma—house prominent state institutions that have provided the foundations and frontiers for ornithology in multiple dimensions. Leading historical figures include Paul Johnsgard, Robert Mengel, and George M. Sutton. The region’s ornithological history underpins and accents our understanding of bird migrations, taxonomy, hybrid zones, transformed landscapes, and dynamic distributional patterns of birds.

The Southern Great Plains region occupies a midcontinental location that transitions between eastern and western avifaunae among the splendor of prairies. The decreasing rainfall and increasing elevational patterns westward capture a continental level of habitat diversity from the deciduous Carolinian forest and pine–oak woodland of the East and South to mesquite and pine–juniper woodlands of the Southwest and Mountain West. Just to the west, the Rocky Mountains funnel birds through the region in a major migration corridor for waterfowl and shorebirds.

The area contains some of the continent’s finest remaining prairies, which are home to prairie grouse, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Henslow’s Sparrow. A high diversity of open-country raptors, sparrows, and longspurs (including Smith’s) occurs during migration and winter. The penetration of different biomes along the region’s periphery provides suitable habitat for Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman’s Sparrow, and Black-capped Vireo in the south and for Cordilleran Flycatcher, Pinyon Jay, and rosy-finches in the northwest.

During migration, the region hosts large numbers of waterfowl, Sandhill and Whooping cranes, and shorebirds. More than 35 species of shorebird can be found annually in the region, which is a major corridor for Hudsonian Godwit and Buff-breasted and White-rumped sandpipers. Its continental climate produces extremes in temperature and precipitation that in turn impact the population dynamics of species on both regional and continental levels. Each of the three states in the region boasts a bird list approaching 500 species.


The ABA gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Southern Great Plains Regional Report Compilers Joseph A. Grzybowski and W. Ross Silcock to promoting knowledge and understanding about the birdlife of the continent.

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