What to Look For on the Chicken Dance Trail
Every season of the year, there’s interest, beauty and enchantment to be found in the Chicken Dance Trail region of southwest and south central Nebraska. The keys to finding and enjoying it are simple:
- Know what you’re looking for
- Know where and how to look
- Be ready to relax and enjoy the process.
This rotating photo gallery, prepared by Nebraska naturalist and photographer Don Brockmeier, will give you an idea of some of the birds, wildlife and natural landscape to keep an eye out for as you travel through our part of the world.
Click on the arrows to see what to look for on the Chicken Dance Trail, then choose one of our adventures and come and join us in Nebraska…on the Chicken Dance Trail.
Great-Horned Owl and Chick
The chick fledges from nest while still downy around the head and without noticeable ear tufts.
Male. Uses natural cavities for nesting also uses nest boxes provided for it. The duckling will jump from high nests without injury.
The small bill and male's white forehead distinguish this species from other dabbling ducks.
A dabbling duck that uses its spoon-shaped bill with comb like projections to which filter out food from the water.
The tallest bird in North America. Different from a White Pelican that has black extending along length of wings, and short legs that do not extend beyond the body in flight.
Migrates form the southern US. Arrives in Nebraska in early spring for a 3-4 week stay before flying North to lay eggs and raise young.
Regularly seen early in the spring, many are around all year roosting in wooded areas.
Male red headed and red brested. Females are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face.
Like to be on the ground. They appear as winter starts and are one of the most common birds seen.
Red Crossbill Male
Note the curved bill with cross tips which are used to extract seeds from seed cones.
Cardinals don't migrate. Their song is one of the first you hear in the morning. They love sunflower seeds in a feeder.
Common feeder bird. Name comes from jamming nuts into tree bark & then whacking them with the bill to hatch out the seed from the inside.
THIS MONTH ON THE CHICKEN DANCE TRAIL!
Whooping Cranes, which will soon be migrating back through Nebraska, are one of the most endangered bird species on the planet, with only around 300 of them left alive in the wild. This is why we ask the public to report ALL sightings of this species.
BIRDS LOVE THIS PART OF NEBRASKA! YOU WILL TOO!
Out beyond the great Midwestern cities, the land opens up and the pavement gives way to fields and streams, to prairie, rills and endless sky. Right in the center of North America’s central flyway, millions of birds of all shapes, sizes and species pass through this area every year. If you know where to look — and that’s the key — you can see an uncommon variety, and, if you’re dedicated, knowledgeable and lucky, you can often make unusual and interesting sightings.
We live here. We put together this site to help birders discover an area rich not only in birds, but in history and culture, with its own brand of inspiring scenery. As you travel each trail, we’ve included our own recommendations of some of the places you might like to stop, including good local restaurants (we eat there ourselves), places to stay and points of interest.
Each loop is a different terrain and habitat and encompasses a number of sites along the highway or secondary roads. An interactive map for each loop describes the sites, common birds and points of interest in the area. Just click on a link below to get started.
The rainwater basins of Central Nebraska provide spring migration habitat for about 6 million snow geese and a million Canada geese as well as 5-7 million ducks, and well over a million Sandhill cranes. Nearly half the mallard population rests in the rainwater basins before continuing north to nesting grounds. Spring offers an unparalleled birding experience.
Rivers, rains and winds dissected and eroded the high tablelands south of the Platte River in central Nebraska to carve the rugged, scenic Loess Canyons. The prevailing northwest winds belw in silt (loess) and deposited the mineral rich dust across the deep canyons and uplands.The loess mantle nourishes thick growths of prairie grasses and a variety of wild flowers. Here, in April, May and early June, lucky birders can see prairie chickens “dance” on their traditional breeding grounds.
Harry Strunk Lake offers canyon, sky and water vistas as well as miles of walking trails for wildlife viewing. On this loop you’ll also drive along the scenic Republican River to McCook and Red Willow Reservoir. The Republican River basin and floodplain offer a rich habitat for wildlife, and prairie wilderness draw birds that soar as well as many other animal species.
The Republican River Valley is where Willa Cather, one of America’s literary giants, grew up and gathered material for her seminal novels My Antonia and O Pioneers!. Here you’ll find broad vistas of gently rolling hills carpeted with sage and long grass. Join us as we look for birds in virgin prairie and croplands, along the river and riparian wetlands, and on the shores of Nebraska’s second largest lake.
A habitat mix of towering cottonwoods, brushy seed and fruit bearing perennials, moist bottomlands and moving water draws a mix of wildlife. Water birds may be spotted along the river and many species of woodland songbirds nest in the deciduous, ancient trees along the Republican. A careful birder can make a big dent in their bird list in many of the scenic spots along this loop.
This Site Made Possible By:
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
Paid in part by a grant from the Nebraska Division of Travel & Tourism.
South Platte Chambers of Commerce
Nebraska Rural Living
Nebraska Environmental Trust
Thanks also to the following counties and communities for their support:
- Red Willow