Last Updated: September 20, 2022
Gifted with rolling dunes, riparian areas, open woodlands, and lush forests, Nebraska is a good birding destination. It has varied landscapes that provide ideal habitats for a wide array of feathered creatures. Have seen birds flying in Nebraska? Do you know what they are?
Read and learn more about some of the birds that you will find in Nebraska. Whether you are in a national forest or a city park, there is a long list of species that consider Nebraska their home.
- Identifying The Most Common Birds In Nebraska
- 1. Northern Cardinal
- 2. Dark-Eyed Junco
- 3. European Starling
- 4. American Robin
- 5. Mourning Dove
- 6. Blue Jay
- 7. White-Breasted Nuthatch
- 8. Downy Woodpecker
- 9. Eastern Bluebird
- 10. Red-Winged Blackbird
- 11. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- 12. House Sparrow
- 13. Northern Flicker
- 14. American Crow
- 15. Baltimore Oriole
- 16. Chipping Sparrow
- 17. Brown-Headed Cowbird
- 18. House Finch
- 19. Western Meadowlark
- 20. House Wren
- 21. Barn Swallow
- 22. Song Sparrow
- 23. American Goldfinch
- 24. Hairy Woodpecker
- 25. Red-Headed Woodpecker
- 26. Yellow Warbler
- 27. Black-Capped Chickadee
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Identifying The Most Common Birds In Nebraska
1. Northern Cardinal
It is almost impossible to talk about birds in Nebraska without mentioning northern cardinals. They are common not just in the state but also in other parts of the country.
A large songbird with a long tail, the northern cardinal has a very thick but short bill. The most prominent physical trait is its crest. It is sharp and looks like a mohawk.
Males are more vibrant. Their entire body is almost bright red. Meanwhile, females are often paler with reddish tinges on the crest, tail, and wing.
Like many of the birds on this list, northern cardinals have varied diets. They will eat insects, such as flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and ants. They also like wild fruits, seeds, and berries.
Fun Fact: The northern cardinal is the only bird in Nebraska where both males and females sing. They are also the only ones in the state with a red beak.
2. Dark-Eyed Junco
In Nebraska, dark-eyed juncos are informally called snowbirds because they appear in the state before it starts snowing in the winter. However, in the spring, they will migrate to cooler locations.
At a length of five to seven inches, a dark-eyed junco is a small bird with a shape almost like a house sparrow. Although, the two are significantly different in terms of their other physical traits.
The head, chest, and back of a dark-eyed junco are dark gray, almost black. The underside is pure white while the bill is yellow, creating an excellent contrast to the rest of its body.
Like other sparrows, these winter birds will eat mostly seeds. In the breeding season, they will also look for insects, which will be their protein sources. In the winter, they can visit bird feeders with sunflowers seeds and millet.
It is not uncommon to see these birds foraging on the ground. They can do so with small flocks of other birds, such as northern cardinals.
3. European Starling
It is believed that European starlings first reached Nebraska in the 1930s. Since then, they have been residents of the state, so you won’t have a hard time finding them.
One of the things they are known for is their vocal mimicry. Each European starling can replicate the call of up to 20 species, including meadowlark, American robin, red-tailed hawk, and northern flicker.
From towns to farms, ranches to lawns, you will find a European starling in many places in Nebraska. Even in areas with human habitations, such as cities, they are abundant.
Not everyone, however, will be happy when seeing a European starling. Especially in large groups, they can be a headache. Many people consider them pests, especially in those with livestock facilities.
Did You Know? European starlings were brought to the United States by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the 19th Century?
4. American Robin
Are you on the lookout for beautiful birds? The American robin should be on your radar. It has a red-orange belly, yellow beak, black head, and brown back. The white outline in its eyes gives more character to the bird.
The American robin is a common lawn visitor in North America. It is an early bird, and you can often see it tugging earthworms off the ground.
Aside from earthworms, berries are also amongst the favorites of American robins. They also like insects, including grasshoppers and caterpillars.
They are most active during the day. They hop around the grass looking for worms to pluck. At dawn and dusk, males are known for making cheery songs.
Your best chance of seeing these birds in the state is in October. This is when they will start their migration to the south.
5. Mourning Dove
The mourning dove is a medium-sized bird with brown wings. Its plumage also has black spots, especially above the wings. The underpart, meanwhile, is usually lighter than its upper body.
Males and females are almost identical in terms of their appearance. Both of them can reach a body length of 12 inches while their wings can span up to 18 inches.
The mating season of mourning doves happens in the spring and winter. A male mourning dove will use its attractive song to lure a pair.
You can attract mourning doves in backyard feeders, so there is no need to go to the forest to see them. Leave insects, seeds, and nuts in the feeder, and they will surely arrive.
Ever wondered why they are called mourning doves? The name is a reference to the sad and haunting cooing, which appears as if they are mourning.
6. Blue Jay
You will find blue jays in Nebraska throughout the year. Whether it is summer or winter, there is up to a 34% chance of sighting this bird.
A large songbird, it has a length of 9.8 to 11.8 inches. When it is flying, meanwhile, the wings can be as wide as 16.9 inches.
It is one of the most colorful and picturesque birds you will find in Nebraska. The attractive blue pigment of a blue jay is sure to turn heads. However, its true color is not blue but almost brown. The bright blue feathers that you can see are an illusory trick, which is the reflection of scattered light.
The diet of a blue jay is omnivorous. Up to 75% of the year, it will eat vegetable matter, especially in the winter. If you want them in your yard, set up bird feeders with grains, seeds, berries, and small fruits.
7. White-Breasted Nuthatch
Compared to other nuthatches, a white-breasted nuthatch has a longer bill. The bill is slightly upturned and about the same size as its head.
While it is not colorful, it is an alluring bird. It has a black cap, white cheeks, white undersides, bluish-gray back, and black and white wings.
White-breasted nuthatches are omnivorous. Aside from sunflower seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, and suet, they also eat insects like caterpillars, beetle larvae, and weevil larvae.
Mature forests are the preferred habitats of these birds. They will choose deciduous over coniferous forests.
They can also be visitors to bird feeders in Nebraska. Offer a buffet of treats and minimize the use of pesticides to increase the chances that they will grace your garden with their presence.
If they do not visit your garden, you can visit them instead. Some of the best places to check out in Nebraska for seeing white-breasted nuthatches up-close are Lake McConaughy and North Platte River Valley.
8. Downy Woodpecker
A permanent resident in Nebraska, a downy woodpecker has a contrasting pattern. It has black wings with white spots. The same colors extend to its cap. Meanwhile, it is mostly white down the center.
These backyard birds in Nebraska are easy to attract in feeders. While they like suet, they will also come if you have black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millets. They will even be attracted to chunky peanut butter.
Like other woodpeckers, they do not sing. However, they drum on hard surfaces, which will give the same effect as singing.
If you are interested in seeing downy woodpeckers in Kentucky, visit open and dense forests. With some luck, you can also find them in urban parks and gardens. They will be foraging tall shrubs and small trees.
Downy woodpeckers are often confused with hairy woodpeckers. One of the main differences, however, is that a downy woodpecker is a smaller version.
9. Eastern Bluebird
While you can find eastern bluebirds in the state throughout the year, their population is most abundant from May to July and in October.
It may be small, but it is easily noticeable because of its attention-grabbing colors. Its upper parts are blue, including the head and the wings. Meanwhile, the collar is orange-brown. Like other birds on this list, males are brighter than females.
When it is foraging, an eastern bluebird will perch low and flutter to the ground to catch insects. Instead of landing, it will hover up with its catch. It is also agile and can catch insects even when the bird is in mid-air.
Typical of backyard birds, the diet relies heavily on seeds, fruits, berries, and worms. It does not always come to backyard feeders, but there will be a higher chance of luring them if you put mealworms.
10. Red-Winged Blackbird
Sightings of red-winged blackbirds in Nebraska were reported year-round, although they tend to be more visible from March to July. Seeing them in the winter can be quite a challenge.
The identification of a red-winged blackbird is easy. The body is mostly black, but it stands out because of the reddish-orange patch that adorns its wings. Females are duller. You will often see brown streaks on their body, unlike males that are blacker.
Males are also known for being territorial and aggressive. Especially during the breeding season, it can attack humans who are getting too close to their nests.
Attracting these common backyard birds is easy if you have a mix of seeds and grains on the ground. They will also be enticed when you have a platform or tube feeder.
A red-winged blackbird is highly polygamous. One male can mate with up to 15 females in a breeding season.
11. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
The belly of this bird is indeed red, but its color is surprisingly pale. The vibrant red cap is more noticeable. Most of its body, however, is black and white.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are known for their habit of hitching on trunks and branches. Instead of drilling the surface of tree bark, they will pick it.
As for their range, it is common to see a red-bellied woodpecker in suburbs, wetlands, and woodlands.
Their diet is mostly insects. Nonetheless, they will also feast on available plant materials, including acorns, pinecones, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
12. House Sparrow
House sparrows are amongst the most abundant songbirds not only in Nebraska but around the world as well. They are non-migratory, and hence, there is a high chance that you will see them throughout the state year-round.
It can be difficult to identify a house sparrow from afar, especially when it is in trees where the bird can camouflage. It has a brown and black back while the belly is gray. Meanwhile, the head is brown and gray, and the cheeks are white.
Seeing house sparrows in Nebraska is easy. You will find them even in residential areas. They are also tame, so do not be surprised if they eat straight out of your hand.
Nonetheless, some people do not like seeing house sparrows in their yards. They are non-native and invasive species, so they can be seen as undesirable.
13. Northern Flicker
A large and brown woodpecker, northern flickers are known for flashing the bright colors under its wings in flight.
The appearance of a northern flicker is comparable to a downy woodpecker. The main difference is that it has no red dot on the head and the plumage is lighter.
Northern flickers are brown, black, and white. The upper body and wings are brown and adorned with black dots. Its belly is grayish and has black spots. They have pinkish but dull feathers on the tail.
Male northern flickers make a high-pitched and melodious song, which it uses to attract a mate.
In the summer, you will often see northern flickers in backyard feeders. They will devour nuts, seeds, berries, worms, and insects.
Increase the chances of these birds visiting your backyards by setting up nesting boxes. Make sure there are guards against predators to prevent the latter from raiding its eggs.
14. American Crow
One of the largest birds you will find in the state, the American crow can reach a length of 20 inches. Meanwhile, its broad black wings can extend up to 40 inches.
A defining characteristic of this bird is its all-black color. From the bill to the legs, it is black. New feathers are glossy. However, when it molts, parts of its feathers can turn dark brown or even paler.
Being social bird species, it is common to see American crows in flocks. Some people might be scared of the sight of them in groups because of their color.
For the best chances of seeing these birds in Nebraska, go to open woodlands, forests, and fields. They will also live around humans, including athletic fields, garbage dumps, and roadsides.
American crows are opportunistic feeders. They will quickly take advantage of any new food source that is in front of them, even if it means being aggressive.
15. Baltimore Oriole
With the brilliant color of this songbird, it is easy to recognize even from afar. Males have flame-orange and black bodies. Its wings are black with a white bar. Females, on the other hand, are a lighter shade of orange and have two white wing bars.
They are most commonly found on leafy deciduous trees, which is where they breed. They do not like the deep forest. Instead, they will reside on riverbanks, forest edges, and open woodlands.
Before planning to see Baltimore orioles in Nebraska, take note that they are not present year-round. Instead, they are only in the state during their breeding season, which runs from April to September.
16. Chipping Sparrow
While they were originally more common in open pine woods, chipping sparrows have adapted to a wide range of locations. They are nesting even in city parks and private backyards.
Chipping sparrows spend most of their time foraging on the ground. They will occasionally fly to catch insects, but their flight is lower than other species. When it forages, it usually appears in large flocks.
The right timing is the key to seeing these common backyard birds in Nebraska. Experts recommend that you search for them from April to October.
If you want to attract these birds, you can use an open feeder with cracked corn and seeds.
17. Brown-Headed Cowbird
It is called brown-headed because it has a brown head. Meanwhile, cowbird is a reference to its habit of following cows as it hunts for its insect prey.
Aside from the color of its head, other identifying characteristics include the glossy black plumage in males. Meanwhile, females have a lighter-colored body with dark eyes and a fine streak on their belly.
While it is part of the family of blackbirds, it has a thicker head and shorter tail compared to other species. The bill is also thicker and shorter than the others.
A brown-headed cowbird resides in grasslands. It prefers locations with low but scattered trees. Most of them will not like forests.
18. House Finch
Present in Nebraska throughout the year, they are some of the most common backyard birds in the state and country.
While it has a red head and breast, the color is not too vibrant, so it rarely stands out. Males are more noticeable compared to females.
More so, house finches are popular for being vocal. They have a high-pitched song with a throaty warble, which you can hear throughout the year.
The habitat is varied since house finches are highly adaptable. They can live in shrubby fields and open woodlands, as well as in urban centers and city parks. It can even visit your backyard, especially if you have a bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds.
You can find a house finch up in a tree or low on the ground. They have gregarious feeding habits. In-flight, they are bouncy. On the ground, they can remain steady, especially when they are opening seeds.
19. Western Meadowlark
The western meadowlark is the designated state bird of Nebraska, so it deserves a spot on our list.
Belonging to the same family as blackbirds and orioles, western meadowlarks are mostly black and white in the upper body with a stripe on their head. Meanwhile, it has a yellow throat and cheeks, making the bird noticeable.
It is a ground forager, so you will often see it on the ground digging insects. Up to 70% of its diet consists of grasshoppers, bugs, spiders, snails, caterpillars, beetles, and cutworms.
Western meadowlarks are protected non-game species. While the population is still abundant, they continue to decline through the years. Part of the reason for such is the increase in the presence of predators in Nebraska, including hawks and coyotes.
20. House Wren
These small birds have an average length of only 4.7 inches. It has a pale to dark brown body, which most people will find dull and unremarkable.
While it is not beautiful, it is known for its effervescent song, which is going to be an auditory treat. They are hesitant when they start singing but will quickly become loud and bubbly, making it easy to detect their presence in Nebraska.
Aside from listening to their song, an easy way to find house wrens is to know their habitat. In this case, they are inhabitants of open and semi-open spaces, such as woods, forests, groves, orchards, and suburbs. They are most common in forests with pines and oaks.
Do you want to attract house wrens to the backyard? Add brush piles and pruned trees to provide cover and protection. Such will also house insects, which constitute most of its diet.
21. Barn Swallow
With its flowing and graceful flight, seeing a barn swallow is a visual treat. It has adapted to humans, so you can see them even in the backyard. As it is named, barn swallows love nesting in barns and garbage. It is rare to find them nesting in non-manmade locations.
It captures and consumes its foods up in the air even if it is nesting on the ground. The diet is mostly flying insects, including flies, wild bees, winged ants, and wasps.
One of the best things about having barn swallows around your home is that it provides natural pest control. It eats mosquitoes, flying termites, and gnats. In an hour, it can consume up to 60 insects or approximately 850 in one day!
22. Song Sparrow
You will find song sparrows in Eastern Nebraska throughout the year. On the other hand, in the western part of the state, these backyard birds are most common only in the winter.
Its physical appearance is not as attractive as the other birds on this list. The plumage is heavily streaked. The head is brown with a grayish or whitish crown. On the other hand, the tail is rusty, rounded, and long.
Their pale and underwhelming color, however, also has a benefit. It helps them to camouflage and hide from birds of prey. It helps in defending themselves from an apparent threat.
Fill your bird feeders with black oil sunflower seeds and there is a high chance that song sparrows will visit you. They also love grains and berries.
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23. American Goldfinch
It is almost impossible to miss an American goldfinch when you see one. In the spring and summer, adult males have a bright yellow body with a black forehead. They also have black and white wing bars, creating an excellent contrast. However, females often have a duller body, especially underneath.
American goldfinches are acrobatic and agile, especially when they are foraging. They will cling to their food sources and will be bouncy during their flight. These birds will draw attention when they are up in the air.
Floodplains and fields are its most common habitats in Nebraska, especially those that are filled with asters and thistles. They also thrive in backyards, orchards, and roadsides.
They are granivores, which means that they will eat mostly seeds. Elm, thistle, and sunflower seeds are well-loved by these backyard birds in Nebraska.
24. Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy woodpeckers are amongst the most common backyard birds in the state. You will find them in Nebraska year-round, although sightings are more prevalent on the eastern side.
On average, this woodpecker has a length of 10 inches and a wingspan of 16 inches. It has a square head while the bill is long and straight, which is almost the same length as its head. More so, the tail feathers are long and stiff.
The black and white contrast in a hairy woodpecker is noticeable, especially in the checkered wings. On the head, there are two white stripes. In males, there is s flash of red in its cap but not too vibrant or large.
25. Red-Headed Woodpecker
One of the many species of woodpeckers present in Nebraska, they have a breeding-only range in the state. That said, you will not see them throughout the year. A medium-sized bird, a red-headed woodpecker has a large and round head, short and stiff tail, and a spike-like and powerful bill.
The dramatic pattern of the red-headed woodpecker gives it a distinct allure. Aside from the vibrant red head, it has black and white wings that form an impressive contrast in its body.
It is one of the few species of woodpeckers with the habit of storing food for the winter. It will stock its food, including berries and nuts for consumption during the time that the bird is less active.
26. Yellow Warbler
A North American native, this bright yellow bird is easily recognizable because of its vibrant color. Although, females are often duller than males.
It has a thin and straight bill, which is larger than what you will find in most warblers. The sharp and fine bill is also sturdy, allowing it to easily gobble its food.
The majority of its diet includes insects, which it will pick from trees and the ground. They will also eat small fruits, berries, and seeds. In the summer, you can easily attract them to bird feeders.
Looking for yellow warblers in Nebraska? Your best bet of seeing them is in woods and thickets with shrubs, specifically those in wetlands and watercourses.
It is common for warblers to thrive in areas with alders, cottonwoods, and willows. They frequent small trees and tall shrubs where they will hop from twigs to branches.
27. Black-Capped Chickadee
The name of his bird alone will already give you an idea of its appearance. The most obvious physical trait is the black cap. Many people call them cute, so it is unsurprising why black-capped chickadees are amongst the favorites of birding enthusiasts in Nebraska. They have tiny bodies and large heads, making them stand out.
Black-capped chickadees are frequently seen in cottonwood groves and deciduous forests. Although, they are highly adaptable. With such, these birds can also live in areas surrounded by humans. They will even visit backyards.
Attracting a black-capped chickadee is easy. If you have a new bird feeding station, then it is one of the first species that will show up. Fill bird feeders with sue and peanut to encourage their presence. Installing nest boxes and closed birdhouses is another great way to lure a black-capped chickadee into your property.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How many species of birds are in Nebraska?
According to the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union, there are 466 species of birds in the state. Out of which, 346 are considered regular, 19 are casual, 96 are accidental, three are extirpated, and two are extinct.
What is the state bird of Nebraska?
The state bird of Nebraska is the western meadowlark, which was officially recognized in 1929. It is also the state bird of Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and Kansas.
Where can I go bird-watching in Nebraska?
With diverse habitats, Nebraska is home to thousands of birds, including year-round residents and seasonal visitors. Some of the best birding spots in Nebraska are the Indian Cave State Park, Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Ponca State Park, Indian Cave State Park, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Lake McConaughy, and Chadron State Park.
Nebraska is a paradise for bird-lovers. From cute creatures to large raptors, colorful to aggressive, you will see all types of feathered friends in the Cornhusker State. You do not even have to walk its forests to spot different species. At times, you will be lucky enough to attract them to your backyard as they visit bird feeders.
Are there other birds that you would like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.