5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Nebraska

By Katie Griffing

5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Nebraska

It’s true that Nebraska is home to the largest concentration of sandhill cranes on the planet, with over half a million birds making the state their wintering and breeding grounds. But that’s not all Nebraska birdwatching has to offer. From prairie birds to forest birds, Nebraska’s vast ecosystem provides the perfect home for birds of all kinds. Here are five wonderful bird watching hikes to check out in Nebraska.

1. Platte River Valley, Kearney, NE

During the spring months, a hike around the Platte River Valley is a must. Especially during March, when an astonishing half a million sandhill cranes make their way across the Platte Valley. To prepare for your hike, be sure to check the weather first as it can vary greatly depending on the time of year. You’ll want to dress comfortably to maximize your stay.

2. Elkhorn Valley Trail, Elkhorn, NE

The Elkhorn Valley Trail features a scenic route across the rolling hills and prairies of Nebraska. It’s also a hotbed for birdwatching. Some of the best birdwatching sites along the trail are near the Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area as well as the Dead Timber State Recreation Area. 

3. Missouri Valley Trail, Bellevue, NE

The Missouri Valley Trail is right in the path for many migratory birds. As you make your way through the trail, you’ll encounter a number of great birdwatching spots. Some of the birds you might see along the trail include the American woodcock, the ruby-throated hummingbird, northern cardinals, barred owls, and some incredible snow geese.

4. Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Valentine, NE

Located alongside the Niobrara River, the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is a 19,000-acre paradise for a variety of Great Plains birds. If you make the trek, then get ready to spot a variety of plants, animals, and of course, birds. Birds native to the area include the grasshopper sparrow, the sharp-tailed grouse, and more than 230 other species.

5. Central Sandhills Trail, Ogallala, NE

The Central Sandhills Trail winds through the heart of Nebraska’s largest natural ecosystem. The 19,000-acre grassland region makes up almost a quarter of the entire state and the Nebraska Sandhills is the largest grassland ecosystem in the whole country. As a result, the trail is one of the best in the Midwest for spotting nesting and feeding birds of all kinds. Species of birds you’re bound to encounter on this trail include the black-crowned night heron, Wilson’s phalarope, eastern screech owl, white-breasted nuthatch, American avocet, Canada goose, trumpeter swan, and many others.

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