Wildlife of Nebraska


Wildlife of Nebraska

A Natural History

Paul A. Johnsgard

528 pages
37 illustrations, 6 maps, 1 table


October 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Wildlife of Nebraska: A Natural History, Paul A. Johnsgard surveys the variety and biology of more than six hundred Nebraska species. Narrative accounts describe the ecology and biology of the state’s birds, its mammals, and its reptiles and amphibians, summarizing the abundance, distributions, and habitats of this wildlife. To provide an introduction to the state’s major ecosystems, climate, and topography, Johnsgard examines major public-access natural areas, including national monuments, wildlife refuges and grasslands, state parks and wildlife management areas, and nature preserves.

Including more than thirty-five line drawings by the author along with physiographic, ecological, and historical maps, Wildlife of Nebraska is an essential guide to the wildlife of the Cornhusker State.

Author Bio

Paul A. Johnsgard is Foundation Regents Professor Emeritus in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has received conservation and research awards from the National Audubon Society, the American Ornithologists’ Union, the National Wildlife Federation, and other state and national organizations. Johnsgard is the author of more than one hundred books on natural history, including Those of the Gray Wind: The Sandhill CranesPrairie Dog Empire: A Saga of the Shortgrass Prairie; and The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity, all available in Bison Books editions.



“Celebrates the gifts of a half century spent roaming Nebraska’s back roads, trails, and sometimes-forgotten places.”—Nebraska Magazine

“Many scientists and historians have written about the natural history of the Great Plains, but few so compellingly as Paul Johnsgard.”—Annals of Iowa

“A classic of nature writing that combines the keen observance of the scientist with the sensitivity of the naturalist.”—Outdoor Press

“Nature writing at its best.”—Nancy Plain, Roundup Magazine

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Abbreviations and Symbols    
Chapter 1. Introduction to Nebraska and Its Biological Environment    
The Geography and Biogeography of Nebraska    
Nebraska as a Biological Transition and Genetic Suture Zone    
Dispersal Corridors and Historic Biogeographic Changes    
Global Warming and Changing Climates    
Chapter 2. Mammals    
Dawn of the Age of Mammals, 150–65 Million Years Ago    
Nebraska’s Mammals, 58–24 Million Years Ago    
Nebraska’s Mammals, 23–22 Million Years Ago    
Nebraska’s Mammals, 12–10 Million Years Ago    
Selected Species Profiles    
Family Didelphidae (Opossums)    
Virginia Opossum. Didelphis virginiana    
Family Leporidae (Hares and Rabbits)         
White-tailed Jackrabbit. Lepus townsendii    
Black-tailed Jackrabbit. Lepus californicus    
Eastern Cottontail. Sylvilagus floridanus    
Desert Cottontail. Sylvilagus audubonii    
Family Soricidae (Shrews)     
Cinereus (Masked) Shrew. Sorex cinereus    
Family Vespertilionidae (Vesper Bats)     
Townsend’s Big-eared Bat. Corynorhinus townsendii    
Big Brown Bat. Eptesicus fuscus    
Silver-haired Bat. Lasionycteris noctivagans    
Eastern Red Bat. Lasiurus borealis    
Hoary Bat. Lasiurus cinereus    
Little Brown Myotis. Myotis lucifugus    
Family Felidae (Cats)     
Canada Lynx. Lynx canadensis    
Bobcat. Lynx rufus    
Cougar (Puma, Mountain Lion). Puma concolor    
Family Canidae (Dogs)     
Coyote. Canis latrans    
Gray Fox. Urocyon cinereoargenteus    
Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes    
Swift Fox. Vulpes velox    
Family Mustelidae (Weasels)     
American Badger. Taxidea taxus    
American Mink. Neovison vison    
Northern River Otter. Lontra canadensis    
Long-tailed Weasel. Mustela frenata    
Black-footed Ferret. Mustela nigripes    
Family Mephitidae (Skunks)     
Striped Skunk. Mephitis    
Eastern Spotted Skunk. Spilogale putorius    
Family Procyonidae (Raccoons)
Northern Raccoon. Procyon lotor    
Family Cervidae (Deer)     
Elk. Cervus canadensis    
White-tailed Deer. Odocoileus virginianus    
Mule Deer. Odocoileus hemionus    
Family Antilocapridae (Pronghorns)     
Pronghorn. Antilocapra americana    
Family Bovidae (Bison, Sheep, and Goats)     
American Bison. Bison bison    
Bighorn (Mountain) Sheep. Ovis canadensis    
Family Sciuridae (Squirrels, Marmots, and Prairie Dogs)     
Black-tailed Prairie Dog. Cynomys ludovicianus    
Southern Flying Squirrel. Glaucomys volans    
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. Ictidomys tridecemlineatus    
Least Chipmunk. Tamias minimus    
Family Castoridae (Beavers)     
Beaver. Castor canadensis    
Family Heteromyidae (Pocket Mice and Kangaroo Rats)     
Ord’s Kangaroo Rat. Dipodomys ordii    
Olive-backed Pocket Mouse. Perognathus fasciatus    
Plains Pocket Mouse. Perognathus flavescens    
Family Dipodidae (Jumping Mice)     
Meadow Jumping Mouse. Zapus hudsonicus    
Family Cricetidae (New World Mice)     
Prairie Vole. Microtus ochrogaster    
Meadow Vole. Microtus pennsylvanicus    
Bushy-tailed Woodrat. Neotoma cinerea    
Eastern Woodrat. Neotoma floridana    
Muskrat. Ondatra zibethicus    
Northern Grasshopper Mouse. Onychomys leucogaster    
White-footed Deer Mouse. Peromyscus leucopus    
American Deer Mouse. Peromyscus maniculatus    
Western Harvest Mouse. Reithrodontomys megalotis    
Plains Harvest Mouse. Reithrodontomys montanus    
Family Erethizontidae (Porcupines)     
Porcupine. Erethizon dorsatum    
Chapter 3. Birds    
The Recent History of Nebraska’s Birds    
Declining and Extripated Species    
Introduced and Invading Species    
Overall Population Trends    
The Geography of Nebraska’s Bird Fauna    
Selected Species Profiles    
Class Aves (Birds)     
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Swans)     
Snow Goose. Anser caerulescens    
Ross’s Goose. Anser rossii    
Cackling Goose. Branta hutchinsii    
Canada Goose. Branta canadensis    
Trumpeter Swan. Cygnus buccinator    
Wood Duck. Aix sponsa    
Blue-winged Teal. Spatula (Anas) discors    
Cinnamon Teal. Spatula cyanoptera    
Northern Shoveler. Spatula clypeata    
Gadwall. Mareca strepera    
American Wigeon. Mareca americana    
Mallard. Anas platyrhynchos    
Northern Pintail. Anas acuta    
Green-winged Teal. Anas crecca    
Canvasback. Aythya valisineria    
Redhead. Aythya americana    
Ring-necked Duck. Aythya collaris    
Lesser Scaup. Aythya affinis    
Bufflehead. Bucephala albeola    
Common Goldeneye. Bucephala clangula    
Common Merganser. Mergus merganser    
Ruddy Duck. Oxyura jamaicensis    
Family Odontophoridae (New World Quails)     
Northern Bobwhite. Colinus virginianus    
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Turkeys)     
Ring-necked Pheasant. Phasianus colchicus    
Sharp-tailed Grouse. Tympanuchus phasianellus    
Greater Prairie-Chicken. Tympanuchus cupido    
Wild Turkey. Meleagris gallopavo    
Family Podicipedidae (Grebes)     
Eared Grebe. Podiceps nigricollis    
Clark’s Grebe. Aechmophorus clarkii    
Western Grebe. Aechmophorus occidentalis    
Family Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)     
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Streptopelia decaocto    
Mourning Dove. Zenaida macroura    
Family Cuculidae (Cuckoos)     
Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Coccyzus americanus    
Family Caprimulgidae (Nightjars)     
Common Nighthawk. Chordeiles minor    
Common Poorwill. Phalaenoptilus nuttallii    
Family Apodidae (Swifts)     
White-throated Swift. Aeronautes saxatalis    
Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)     
Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Archilochus colubris    
Family Rallidae (Rails and Coots)     
Common Gallinule. Gallinula galeata    
American Coot. Fulica americana    
Family Gruidae (Cranes)     
Sandhill Crane. Antigone canadensis    
Whooping Crane. Grus americana    
Family Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)     
Black-necked Stilt. Himantopus mexicanus    
American Avocet. Recurvirostra americana    
Family Charadriidae (Plovers)     
Killdeer. Charadrius vociferus    
Piping Plover. Charadrius melodus    
Mountain Plover. Charadrius montanus    
Snowy Plover. Charadrius nivosus    
Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes, and Phalaropes)     
Upland Sandpiper. Bartramia longicauda    
Long-billed Curlew. Numenius americanus    
Baird’s Sandpiper. Calidris bairdii    
Least Sandpiper. Calidris minutilla    
Long-billed Dowitcher. Limnodromus scolopaceus    
Spotted Sandpiper. Actitis macularia    
Lesser Yellowlegs. Tringa flavipes    
Greater Yellowlegs. Tringa melanoleuca    
Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Tryngites subruficollis    
Wilson’s Phalarope. Phalaropus tricolor    
Red-necked Phalarope. Phalaropus lobatus    
Family Laridae (Gulls and Terns)     
Least Tern. Sterna albifrons    
Black Tern. Chlidonias niger    
Forster’s Tern. Sterna forsteri    
Family Gaviidae (Loons)     
Common Loon. Gavia immer    
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)     
Double-crested Cormorant. Phalacrocorax auritus    
Family Pelecanidae (Pelicans)     
American White Pelican. Pelecanus erythroryhnchos    
Family Ardeidae (Herons and Egrets)     
American Bittern. Botaurus lentiginosus    
Great Blue Heron. Ardea herodias    
Snowy Egret. Egretta thula    
Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)     
White-faced Ibis. Plegadis chihi    
Family Cathartidae (New World Vultures)     
Turkey Vulture. Cathartes aura    
Family Pandionidae (Ospreys)     
Osprey. Pandion haliaetus    
Family Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles)     
Golden Eagle. Aquila chrysaetos    
Bald Eagle. Haliaeetus leucocephalus    
Northern Harrier. Circus hudsonicus    
Sharp-shinned Hawk. Accipiter striatus    
Cooper’s Hawk. Accipiter cooperii    
Northern Goshawk. Accipiter gentilis    
Swainson’s Hawk. Buteo swainsoni    
Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis    
Ferruginous Hawk. Buteo regalis    
Rough-legged Hawk. Buteo lagopus    
Family Strigidae (Typical Owls)     
Eastern Screech-Owl. Megascops asio    
Great Horned Owl. Bubo virginianus    
Burrowing Owl. Athene cunicularia    
Long-eared Owl. Asio otus    
Short-eared Owl. Asio flammeus    
Northern Saw-whet Owl. Aegolius acadicus    
Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)     
Belted Kingfisher. Megaceryle alcyon    
Family Picidae (Woodpeckers)     
Lewis’s Woodpecker. Melanerpes lewis    
Red-headed Woodpecker. Melanerpes erythrocephalus    
Downy Woodpecker. Dryobates pubescens    
Hairy Woodpecker. Dryobates villosus    
Northern Flicker. Colaptes auratus    
Family Falconidae (Falcons)     
American Kestrel. Falco sparverius    
Merlin. Falco columbarius    
Peregrine Falcon. Falco peregrinus    
Prairie Falcon. Falco mexicanus    
Order Passeriformes (Passerine Birds)     
Family Tyrannidae (New World Flycatchers)     
Western Wood-Pewee. Contopus sordidulus    
Eastern Wood-Pewee. Contopus virens    
Willow Flycatcher. Empidonax traillii    
Least Flycatcher. Empidonax minimus    
Cordilleran Flycatcher. Empidonax occidentalis    
Say’s Phoebe. Sayornis saya    
Western Kingbird. Tyrannus verticalis    
Eastern Kingbird. Tyrannus tyrannus    
Family Laniidae (Shrikes)     
Loggerhead Shrike. Lanius ludovicianus    
Family Vireonidae (Vireos)     
Warbling Vireo. Vireo gilvus    
Family Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)     
Pinyon Jay. Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus    
Black-billed Magpie. Pica hudsonia    
American Crow. Corvus brachyrhynchos    
Family Alaudidae (Larks)     
Horned Lark. Eremophila alpestris    
Family Hirundinidae (Swallows)     
Bank Swallow. Riparia riparia    
Tree Swallow. Tachycineta bicolor    
Violet-green Swallow. Tachycineta thalassina    
Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Stelgidopteryx serripennis    
Barn Swallow. Hirundo rustica    
Cliff Swallow. Petrochelidon pyrrhonota    
Family Paridae (Chickadees and Titmice)     
Black-capped Chickadee. Poecile atricapillus    
Family Sittidae (Nuthatches)     
Red-breasted Nuthatch. Sitta canadensis    
White-breasted Nuthatch. Sitta carolinensis    
Pygmy Nuthatch. Sitta pygmaea    
Family Certhiidae (Treecreepers)     
Brown Creeper. Certhia americana    
Family Troglodytidae (Wrens)     
Rock Wren. Salpinctes obsoletus    
House Wren. Troglodytes aedon    
Family Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)     
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Polioptila caerulea    
Family Regulidae (Kinglets)     
Golden-crowned Kinglet. Regulus satrapa    
Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Regulus calendula    
Family Turdidae (Thrushes)     
Eastern Bluebird. Sialia sialis    
Mountain Bluebird. Sialia currucoides    
Townsend’s Solitaire. Myadestes townsendi    
Veery. Catharus fuscescens    
Swainson’s Thrush. Catharus ustulatus    
Hermit Thrush. Catharus guttatus    
American Robin. Turdus migratorius    
Family Mimidae (Thrashers, Catbirds, and Mockingbirds)     
Gray Catbird. Dumetella carolinensis    
Brown Thrasher. Toxostoma rufum    
Sage Thrasher. Oreoscoptes montanus    
Family Bombycillidae (Waxwings)     
Bohemian Waxwing. Bombycilla garrulus    
Cedar Waxwing. Bombycilla cedrorum    
Family Motacillidae (Pipits)     
American Pipit. Anthus rubescens    
Sprague’s Pipit. Anthus spragueii    
Family Fringillidae (Finches)     
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. Leucosticte tephrocotis    
House Finch. Haemorhous mexicanus    
Red Crossbill. Loxia curvirostra    
Pine Siskin. Spinis pinus    
American Goldfinch. Spinis tristis    
Evening Grosbeak. Coccothraustes vespertinus    
Family Calcariidae (Longspurs and Snow Buntings)     
Chestnut-collared Longspur. Calcarius ornatus    
McCown’s Longspur. Rhynchophanes mccownii    
Family Passerellidae (New World Sparrows and Towhees)     
Grasshopper Sparrow. Ammodramus savannarum    
Lark Sparrow. Chondestes grammacus    
Lark Bunting. Calamospiza melanocorys    
Chipping Sparrow. Spizella passerina    
Brewer’s Sparrow. Spizella breweri    
American Tree Sparrow. Spizelloides arborea    
Dark-eyed Junco. Junco hyemalis    
White-crowned Sparrow. Zonotrichia leucophrys    
White-throated Sparrow. Zonotrichia albicollis    
Vesper Sparrow. Pooecetes gramineus    
Henslow’s Sparrow. Centronyx henslowii    
Song Sparrow. Melospiza melodia    
Swamp Sparrow. Melospiza georgiana    
Spotted Towhee. Pipilo maculatus    
Eastern Towhee. Pipilo erythropthalmus    
Family Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)     
Yellow-breasted Chat. Icteria virens    
Family Icteridae (Blackbirds, Orioles, and Meadowlarks)     
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus    
Bobolink. Dolichonyx oryzivorus    
Eastern Meadowlark. Sturnella magna    
Western Meadowlark. Sturnella neglecta    
Baltimore Oriole. Icterus galbula    
Bullock’s Oriole. Icterus bullockii    
Red-winged Blackbird. Agelaius phoeniceus    
Brown-headed Cowbird. Molothrus ater    
Brewer’s Blackbird. Euphagus cyanocephalus    
Common Grackle. Quiscalus quiscula    
Family Parulidae (New World Warblers)     
Orange-crowned Warbler. Oreothlypis celata    
Common Yellowthroat. Geothlypis trichas    
American Redstart. Setophaga ruticilla    
Yellow Warbler. Setophaga petechia    
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Setophaga coronata    
Wilson’s Warbler. Cardillina pusilla    
Family Cardinalidae (Cardinals, Tanagers, and Grosbeaks)     
Scarlet Tanager. Piranga olivacea    
Western Tanager. Piranga ludoviciana    
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Pheucticus ludovicianus    
Black-headed Grosbeak. Pheucticus melanocephalus    
Lazuli Bunting. Passerina amoena    
Indigo Bunting. Passerina cyanea    
Dickcissel. Spiza americana    
Chapter 4. Reptiles and Amphibians    
An Introduction to Nebraska’s Reptiles and Amphibians    
Selected Species Profiles    
Amphibians (Salamanders, Toads, and Frogs)     
Order Caudata (Salamanders)    
Family Ambystomatidae (Mole Salamanders)    
Barred Tiger Salamander. Ambystoma malvortium    
Order Anura (Frogs and Toads)     
Family Pelabatidae (Spadefoots)     
Plains Spadefoot. Spea bombifrons    
Family Bufonidae (Toads)     
Woodhouse’s Toad. Anaxyrus (Bufo) woodhousei    
Family Ranidae (Typical Frogs)     
American Bullfrog. Lithobates (Rana) catesbiana    
Plains Leopard Frog. Lithobates (Rana) blairi    
Northern Leopard Frog. Lithobates (Rana) pipiens    
Family Hylidae (Chorus Frogs)     
Cope’s Gray Treefrog. Hyla chrysocelis    
Boreal Chorus Frog. Pseudacris maculata    
Reptiles (Turtles, Lizards, and Snakes)     
Order Chelonia (Turtles)     
Family Chelydridae (Snapping Turtles)     
Eastern Snapping Turtle. Chelydra serpentina    
Family Embydidae (Pond and Box Turtles)     
Western Painted Turtle. Chrysemys picta    
Ornate Box Turtle. Terrapene ornata    
Family Trionychidae (Softshell Turtles)     
Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle. Apalone mutica    
Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle. Apalone spinifera    
Order Lacertilia (Lizards)     
Family Scincidae (Skinks)     
Many-lined Skink. Eumeces (Plestiodon) multivirgatus    
Northern Prairie Skink. Plestiodon septentrionalis    
Family Phrynosomatidae (Spiny, Earless, Tree, and Horned Lizards)     
Greater (Mountain) Short-horned Lizard. Phrynosoma hernandesi    
Prairie Lizard. Sceloporus (undulatus) consobrinus    
Common Sagebrush Lizard. Sceloporus graciosus    
Order Serpentes (Snakes)     
Family Colubridae (Harmless Egg-laying Snakes)     
Gophersnake (Bullsnake). Pituophis catenifer    
Family Natricidae (Live-bearing Snakes)     
Wandering (Western Terrestrial) Gartersnake. Thamnophis elegans    
Plains Gartersnake. Thamnophis radix    
Common Gartersnake. Thamnophis sirtalis    
Family Dipsadidae (Rear-fanged Snakes)     
Plains (Western) Hog-nosed Snake. Heterodon nasicus    
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake. Heterodon platyrhinos    
Family Viperidae (Pitvipers)     
Prairie (Western) Rattlesnake. Crotalus viridis    
Massasauga Rattlesnake. Sistrurus catenatus    
Chapter 5. Species Checklist and Status/Habitat Codes    
Data Sources and Abundance, Habitat, and Conservation Categories    
Reptiles and Amphibians    
Chapter 6. Some Natural Treasures of Nebraska    

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