Important Bird Areas

Rainwater Basin

Nebraska

The Rainwater Basin covers 4,200 sq. mi. in 21 southcentral Nebraska counties. The actual area of habitat within this region is difficult to measure. The RWB Web site lists 62,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat that is a target for conservation by the organization.

Named for the shallow wetlands whose water comes from rainfall and snowmelt (not underground aquifers) and attracts millions of shorebirds, water birds, and waterfowl each year.

Ornithological Summary

Data was collected from several individual waterfowl production areas:

Funk WPA: During spring, Funk hosts hundreds of thousands of geese (especially greater white-fronted), and some 20 species of ducks. Thousands of shorebirds use this site from March through May and again in early fall. In April and October, Whooping Cranes have been observed. From May through September you might see Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets. White-faced Ibis and Cinnamon Teal are regularly seen. American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and Eared Grebes are common in the deeper water areas. Breeding species include Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eared and Pied-billed Grebes, Least Bittern, Virginia Rail, Northern Harrier, and Common Yellowthroat.

Harvard WPA: At the peak of spring migration in March, the wetland attracts up to 500,000 waterfowl; tens of thousands of Snow, Canada, and Greater White-fronted Geese; occasional flocks of Sandhill Cranes; and Bald Eagles.

Later on as water levels drop, the main basin and several smaller wetlands to the south are used by many shorebirds, including Piping Plovers. The uplands provide breeding habitat for birds of state concern such as Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, Dickcissel, and Upland Sandpiper.

Hultine WPA: Large numbers of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds can be observed during migration, particularly Greater White-fronted Geese. The uplands support several species of state concern, such as Bobolink, Dickcissel, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Up to a dozen Greater Prairie-Chickens have displayed on the north basin.

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