Birding in Kansas

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Kansas Birders
Photo by Mike Blair

Whooping Cranes at Quivira NWR
and Cheyenne Bottoms!

Kansas Wildlife Trails

Birding Links

Prairie Chicken Viewing

Christmas Bird Counts

Birding in Kansas

Kansas birding opportunities have been one of the best kept secrets in the nation...until  recently.  With 467 species on the state list, Kansas offers fascinating possibilities for both the amateur and the serious birder.  How does the Kansas bird list stack up regionally?  Kansas' bird diversity exceeds Upland Sandpiper - Photo by Dave Rintoulevery neighboring state except one (figures from the American Birding Association): Oklahoma-450, Colorado-470, Nebraska-445, Missouri-405, Iowa-405

The Sunflower state offers a mecca of diverse habitats, joining the eastern hardwood forest to tallgrass prairie. The mixed-grass prairie region harbors the scenic Smoky and Gyp Hills along with the extensive central wetlands of Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Another of the state's birding attractions is in the extreme Southwest corner - the Cimarron National Grasslands and areas around Elkhart. Known for �zooties� or rare birds that occasionally extend ranges from areas south and west, this corner of the state gains attention of all serious listers both in-state and nationally.

Situated under the central flyway, Kansas sees thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds passing through the central part of the state every spring and fall during migration. The casual nature-lover will enjoy the spectacle of these giant flocks around the central wetlands and major reservoirs. Shorebird migrations are very dependent on these major wetlands and in some instances, the majority of the population of some species make stops at these locations annually.


While some shorebirds and hummingbirds begin their fall migrations in July, most birds start later. Shorebirds peak through September as many of the passerines (songbirds/perching birds) are beginning their migrations. Typically, the first week in October is peak for warblers and many of the raptors (hawks, eagles, and owls) along with sparrows and many other groups. Classic warbler �fallouts� are anticipated each fall along the eastern edge of the state and in other key spots offering a short-term safe harbor from unfavorable south winds.


In spring, mid-April is peak for shorebirds.  And over the next month, most other passerines, raptors and waterfowl are flocking through the state.

Recently, Kansas birding has achieved some huge notoriety.

bulletIn September of 2001, Wildbird magazine ranked the Kansas central wetlands as 8th out of 15 of the �best birding locations in North America� !  
bulletThen in February of 2003, �Birding�, the highly respected magazine of the American Birding Association ran an article by Mark Robbins detailing the incredible 225 species Big Day that he, Mike Rader and Roger McNeill had May 13, 2002.  This big day tied for the all time third highest in the nation!  
bulletIn the March/April issue of Wildbird the same year, Sam Fried extolled the birding virtues of the central Kansas wetlands after visiting the Wings n� Wetland Festival at Great Bend the previous year.

Kansas is not just a place to buzz through on your way to somewhere else. For nature/birding tourists, it is now a discovered destination spot!

Beginning the weekend of November 8, 2009, up to forty whooping cranes were in temporary residence at the central Kansas wetlands complex including Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.  It was a fantastic opportunity to see these very rare birds!  This video from Mike Blair of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks celebrates the event.

For more videos from this series, see the KDWP website.

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Male & female prairie chickens

Kansas has good populations of both the lesser and greater prairie chicken.  These members of the grouse family are most noted for their fascinating lek behavior during the spring breeding season.  Males will gather on a prominent hilltop and go through elaborate displays to attract females. The displays involve claiming of territory within the lek and defending it against other males through ritualistic dances, posturing, "booming" vocalizations made with large inflatable cheek pouches and, on occasion, fighting off their rivals.  Females come to the lek to choose a mate from the assembled males.  The leks may be active between mid-March and early May, depending on where you are.

Between March 15 and April 20, you may observe greater prairie chicken leks from viewing blinds at the following locations.

bulletBob & Margaret Massey's property, near Dexter in the southern Flint Hills
Call 620-876-5700 for information.
bullet The Tallgrass Spiritual Retreat Center, south of Matfield Green in the center of the Flint Hills.  Visit their website to see what dates are still available and to make a reservation.
bulletThe Konza Prairie, near Manhattan in the northern Flint Hills.  Visit their website for information and to make a reservation.
bulletThe Kansas Wetlands Education Center, near Cheyenne Bottoms.  Visit their website for more information.

Lesser Prairie Chicken
 - viewing blinds are available in the Cimarron National Grasslands

Other places in Kansas where prairie chickens may be found are:

- Greater prairie chickens:

bullet Northeast Kansas
bullet Shawnee State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area
bullet Oregon Trail Nature Park
bullet Melvern Lake
bullet Lyon State Fishing Lake
bullet Southeast Kansas
bullet Yates Center Reservoir
bullet Woodson State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area
bullet Fall River Lake
bullet South Central Kansas
bullet Butler State Fishing Lake
bullet El Dorado Lake
bullet Flint Hills Wildlife Drive
bullet North Central Kansas
bullet Wilson Lake
bullet Konza Prairie
bullet Waconda Lake

- Lesser prairie chickens:

bullet Southwest Kansas
bullet Pratt Sand Hills and Texas Lake Wildlife Area
bulletSandsage Bison Range and Wildlife Area
bullet Syracuse River Road
bullet Cimarron National Grasslands

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If you know of events to list here, let us know!

Kansas Birding Festival
Milford Lake and surrounding area

Wichita Audubon Field Trips
The Wichita Audubon Society has an active outings schedule. 
Visit their web site for dates and details!

Topeka Audubon Field Trips
The Topeka Audubon Society has their field trip schedule online too.
Visit their web site for dates and details!

Burroughs Audubon Field Trips
The Burroughs Audubon Society (Kansas City area) also has an active field trip schedule. 
Visit their web site for dates and details!


bulletFor a complete list of Kansas counts, with date, location and contact information, see the Kansas Ornithological Society website.  Count dates run from December 11 to January 8.

- If you know of other birding events that ought to be listed here, let us know! -

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bulletKansas Ornithological Society
bullet County checklists
bulletAudubon of Kansas
bulletLocal Chapters
bullet Kansas Birding Listserve
bulletRaptors of Kansas
bulletShorebirds of the Great Plains

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find birding lists for each county in Kansas!

The American Birding Association keeps a listing of
Birding Festivals across the country on their web site.

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Watchable Wildlife icon

Highway-based Wildlife Trails are in the works for Kansas!  These will be routes, utilizing public roads, which offer a framework for people to see the best the region has to offer for viewing wildlife.  The Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance is leading an effort to form two highway-based wildlife trails in Western Kansas.
Audubon of Kansas has completed a brochure with website support for "Tallgrass Prairie Parkway" Wildlife and Natural Heritage Trail in eastern Kansas. For a copy or for more information, contact Ron Klataske at or (785)537-4385.
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the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

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