As far as birds are concerned, there’s nothing the matter with Kansas. Species counts show an incremental increase year over year of bird species on the Kansas birds checklist, mostly because accidental birds get pushed by storms and winds into the state. Today the official Kansas birds checklist hovers around the 480 mark. Within a decade the number could approach the nice round 500 species mark.
The Western Meadowlark stands out among the entire list, chosen as the official state bird. Less well known is the fact that both native meadowlark species inhabit the Kansas grasslands. Logic suggests the Western Meadowlark is found in the western portions of the state and the Eastern Meadowlark is found in the eastern portions of the state.
Whether it’s their joyous singing or their bright yellow feathers and black breast band, it’s hard to miss the Western Meadowlark when it’s in the vicinity.
One of the typical grassland birds of the West and Midwest. They live on a diet of seeds and insects. The Tallgrass Prairies of the Flint Hills in Southeast Kansas ranks as the last and the largest of the remaining Tallgrass Prairies in the United States. In addition to providing breeding grounds for the Western Meadowlark, the habitat also hosts Greater Prairie-Chickens, Henslow’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissel and Upland Sandpipers.
Every day backyard birding is as popular in Kansas as it is elsewhere. Like the Meadowlarks, the Kansas Blue Jays also happily announce their appearance around the state with the typical jay-jay-jay vocalization. The blue feathers on the back and wings contrasted with a black ring around the throat easily distinguish it from another common Kansas bird with blue feathers, the Indigo Bunting.
They are most common in the east, however during spring and fall migration large numbers of nonresidents fly through the state. Jayhawk fans know they constitute the Jay in Jayhawks.
Slight changes might occur from year to year, however, according to the Kansas Ornithological Society, the five most common backyard birds in Kansas during the winter tend to remain the same:
- House sparrow
- American goldfinch
- Dark-eyed junco
- European Starling
- Northern cardinal
Speaking of sparrows, the backyard birds that go by the common name sparrow also fit the Kansas birds model. While close to three dozen different types of sparrows make the Kansas birds list, only about half of them have been recorded in all, or most of the state’s 105 counties.
Three species, the Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow and Lark Sparrow have a breeding range across the entire state. With habitat preferences such as fields, grasslands and farms, they can be considered true Kansas birds. The picture shows a Field Sparrow.
Otherwise, the sparrows of Kansas are collectively classified as non-resident birds that often migrate to breeding areas over the summer months. During the winter months backyard feeders across the state are a great place to view most of these very nice birds.
Birding in Kansas
Kansas bird diversity translates into great birding opportunities in the state. Local birding groups, especially in the eastern high populations areas such as metropolitan Kansas City often have built in birding opportunities. The Kansas City Metro Trail, for example, provides bird watching opportunities within blocks of the center of the city. It could not be easier to take a morning or afternoon off from a business trip.
A local favorite, the Common Nighthawk breeds in many areas of Kansas including around residential areas. They are a familiar summer site for many of the state’s birders.
Most people recognize them during flight. They tend to fly erratically, akin to a bat flight as they search for insects. As the name implies, they can be seen flying during the evening hours.
Wichita in central Kansas might be best known for the love of Purple Martins. Once per year the birds make a summer stop over in the city during the fall migration. As locals will tell you, if you’ve seen one Purple Martin, you have seen tens of thousands of them.
They are very social birds and Wichita rolls out the hospitality bandwagon for them.
In the south central part of the state around Wichita, multiple larger lakes and wetlands provide great birding opportunities.
The Great Plains Nature Center in Chisholm Creek Park is the local must see birding attraction. Paved paths make any birding excursion easy on the legs for all visitors. The park bird list reaches the one hundred and sixty mark.
Kansas’ extensive river and creek system extends across the entire state. Anywhere there is water, there are bound to be birds. All four of Kansas’ National Wildlife Refuges are established near or on rivers in the eastern part of the state.
They serve as migratory stopping grounds for most of the waterfowl and shorebirds. Sandhill Cranes (pictured) are also present in large numbers.