What are the migratory birds on the Great Plains?

Answered by James Kissner

On the Great Plains, a vast region in North America, there is a diverse range of migratory birds that visit throughout the year. These birds undertake long and arduous journeys, often spanning thousands of miles, to reach their breeding grounds or wintering areas. Among the migratory birds on the Great Plains, a few notable species stand out.

1. Bald Eagles: Bald eagles are magnificent birds of prey and are among the first migrators to arrive on the Great Plains during early spring. These iconic birds, with their white heads and dark bodies, can be seen soaring high in the sky or perching on trees near rivers and lakes. Their arrival is a welcome sign of the changing season and the return of warmer weather.

2. Sandhill Cranes: Another impressive migratory bird that graces the Great Plains is the sandhill crane. These large, grayish birds with long legs and distinctive red crowns are known for their unique and melodious calls. They undertake one of the longest migrations of any bird species, traveling from their wintering grounds in Mexico and the southern United States to the northern reaches of the Great Plains to breed and raise their young.

3. Ducks and Geese: Ducks and geese are a common sight on the Great Plains during the spring migration. These waterfowl species include mallards, pintails, and Canada geese, among others. They use the wetlands and prairie potholes of the region as stopover points to rest and refuel before continuing their journey. Their vibrant plumage and graceful flight patterns add color and beauty to the landscape.

4. Shorebirds: As spring progresses, shorebirds make their appearance on the Great Plains. These small to medium-sized birds, such as sandpipers, plovers, and avocets, rely on the region’s wetlands, mudflats, and shallow lakes as important feeding and resting areas during their migration. They can be seen probing the muddy shores for invertebrates or performing intricate courtship displays.

5. Songbirds: Later in the spring, the Great Plains become a haven for songbirds. Warblers, sparrows, thrushes, and many other species arrive to breed and establish territories. Their melodious calls and vibrant plumage fill the air as they flit through the trees and shrubs, building nests and raising their young. These small and agile birds add a symphony of sound and color to the prairie landscape.

In my personal experience, I have had the opportunity to witness the arrival of migratory birds on the Great Plains. One particular memory that stands out is watching a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead, their wings outstretched against a clear blue sky. It was a breathtaking sight that reminded me of the incredible journeys these birds undertake each year.

The Great Plains serve as a vital migratory pathway for a wide variety of birds. From the majestic bald eagles to the delicate songbirds, each species plays a unique role in the ecosystem and contributes to the rich biodiversity of the region. Observing these migratory birds in their natural habitats is not only a visual treat but also a reminder of the awe-inspiring wonders of nature.