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.

Mocking Bird_

Trumpeter Swan

Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Horned Lark


Franklin Gull

Northern Harrier

Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Northern Harrier

American Kestrel

Swainson's Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


Red-Tailed Hawk

Young one

Northern Pintail

Ring-billed Gull

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Pied-billed Grebe




Blue Winged Teal

Mallard Duck


Mallard Duck


Yellow-headed Blackbird

Red Crossbill


Black-capped Chickadee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Red-winged Blackbird


Red-winged Blackbird


Barn Swallow

Tree Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Gray Catbird


White-faced, Ibis

Black-necked Stilt

Indigo Bunting Female





Orchard Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Northern Shrike

Lark Bunting

Lazuli Bunting

Painted Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Cattle Egret

Snowy Egret

Great Egret

Wood Duck female

Yellow-billed Cuckoo




Mourning Dove

Great-Horned Owl and Chick

The chick fledges from nest while still downy around the head and without noticeable ear tufts.

Yellow-rumped Warblers

Eat flying insects and berries in the fall

Wood Duck

Male. Uses natural cavities for nesting also uses nest boxes provided for it. The duckling will jump from high nests without injury.

Wood Duck


American Wigeon

The small bill and male's white forehead distinguish this species from other dabbling ducks.

Blue-winged Teal

It has a powder-blue wing patch which it shows in flight.

Lark Sparrow

A large sparrow with plain whitish underparts with large dark spot in center of breast

Northern Shoveler

A dabbling duck that uses its spoon-shaped bill with comb like projections to which filter out food from the water.

Eastern Pheoble

the most familiar flycatcher

Whooping Crane

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.

Sandhill Crane

Early morning light

Sandhill Crane

Prairie Chicken

Dancing and sparring on a lek

Male Prairie Chicken with a Female Prairie Chicken

Male Prairie Chicken & Male Sharp-tailed Grouse

Prairie Chicken on right

Pine Siskin

A "winter finch" with heavy streaking on body distinguishes it from goldfinches.

White-crowned sparrow

Appear in the winter and have a black-and-white head with a gray breast.

Chiipping Sparrow

Have a loud, trilling song and are a crisp looking bird with a bright rusty crown

Hen Ring-necked Pheasant

Male Rilng-necked Pheasant

Sandhill Crane

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.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Position for launch

American Robin

Regularly seen early in the spring, many are around all year roosting in wooded areas.

Great Horned Owl

Only animal that regularly eats skunks. Female larger than male.

Great Horned Owl

Recently Hatch

Mountain Bluelbird

Eastern Bluebird


Eastern Bluebird


Bald Eagle

Takes five years to acquire adult plumage

House Finch

Male red headed and red brested. Females are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face.


Winter plumage


Spring male. At feeders they like sunflower and nyjer seeds

Canada Goose

Eared Grebe

Most abundant grebe in the world. Red eyes and in summer, black with golden ear tufts

Snow Goose

Breeds on the arctic tundra, and travels south in very large, high-flying, flocks.

Ring-billed Gull

Yellow bill with black ring near the tip. Wingtips black with white spots

Bald Eagle

Found near open water in winter looking for weak birds or fish that are near the surface

Ring-neck Pheasant Male

Introduced into North America from Asia

Dark-eyed Junco

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.

Northern Cardinal

Cardinals don't migrate. Their song is one of the first you hear in the morning. They love sunflower seeds in a feeder.

Blue Jay

Song can be heard a long ways off. The like tray feeders instead of hanging ones.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Song is a nasal yank-yank sound.

White-breasted Nuthatch

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.

Red Crossbill Female

Photos displayed in our gallery are copyright © Don Brockmeier, and are used on this site with his permission. To contact Don directly about his photos, please email eiai@consolidatedtelephone.com.


Is that a Whooping Crane?

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.

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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 Adventures

  • Nebraska Birdwatching Adventures, Rainwater Basin

    Rainwater Basin Adventure

    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.
  • Nebraska Birdwatching Adventures, Loess Canyon

    Loess Canyon Adventure

    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.
  • Nebraska Birdwatching Adventures, Sand Sage Prairie

    Sandsage Prairie Adventure

    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.
  • Nebraska Birdwatching Adventures, Republican River

    Republican River Adventure

    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.
  • Nebraska Birdwatching Adventures, Medicine Creek

    Medicine Creek Adventure

    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.

Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
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Paid in part by a grant from the Nebraska Division of Travel & Tourism.
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South Platte Chambers of Commerce
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Nebraska Rural Living
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Nebraska Environmental Trust
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Thanks also to the following counties and communities for their support:

  • Dundy
  • Frontier
  • Furnas
  • Harlan
  • Kearney
  • Phelps
  • Red Willow
  • Webster

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