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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote® The Rainwater Basin of Nebraska

Air Date: Week of April 6, 2012

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Sandhill Cranes (Photo: Nazhiyath Vijayan)

Spring rains bring out the green and help water crops. And in south-central Nebraska, they provide watering grounds for migrating birds. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein has more.

Transcript

[BIRDNOTE THEME]

GELLERMAN: Splish, splash, they’re taking a bath. Migrating birds take a quick dip at the watering holes in south-central Nebraska and then they’ll continue to wing it along the Central Flyway. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein has more.

[NORTHERN PINTAILS SPLASHING IN WATER]

STEIN: For 20,000 years, spring rains and melting snow have filled the playas of the Rainwater Basin of south-central Nebraska. Carved by glacial winds at the end of the last Ice Age, the playas are shallow depressions the warmth of spring fills with abundant life.

[RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS]

STEIN: As winter ends, ten million waterfowl rest and feed here before continuing north.

[CALLS OF NORTHERN PINTAILS, BLUE-WINGED TEAL WITH MALLARDS AND MARSH SOUNDS]

STEIN: The seasonal wetlands of the Rainwater Basin form a 150-mile-wide funnel for waterbirds migrating from the Gulf Coast and points south to northern breeding grounds. The basin is the narrowest neck of the great migratory route we call the Central Flyway.

[CALLS OF SNOW GEESE]

STEIN: In recent years, the number of Snow Geese stopping in the region during spring has risen dramatically to more than three million birds. A third of North America’s Northern Pintails rely on the food-rich habitat here.

[CALLS OF NORTHERN PINTAILS]

STEIN: Shorebirds of 27 species use the wetlands. So do half a million Sandhill Cranes.

[CALLS OF SANDHILL CRANES]

STEIN: The importance of the region’s wetlands for waterfowl cannot be overstated. Fat reserves acquired during their stay here can mean the difference between success and failure in nesting. No other stopover between wintering and nesting grounds can replace the combination of wetlands and grain fields found in the Rainwater Basin.

[CALLS OF SANDHILL CRANES]

STEIN: I’m Michael Stein.

GELLERMAN: And for some photos of the migrating birds in our BirdNote®, hop on over to our website LOE dot org.

 

Links

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

BirdNote® The Rainwater Basin of Nebraska was written by Todd Peterson. Check out the BirdNote website.

 

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