Birding and Outdoor Recreation

Public lands in the Rainwater Basin region offer many opportunities for hunting, photography, and wildlife observation. For generations, waterfowl hunters from around the country were drawn each fall to the Rainwater Basin’s wetlands.

In more recent decades, birdwatchers have been fascinated by the variety and sheer numbers of birds that stop here during spring migration, including geese, ducks, cranes, and shorebirds. Every year is different; every day at every wetland is different. But with patience and a bit of luck, you just might see more birds in a day than some folks see in a lifetime.

Enhance your wildlife watching experience in the Rainwater Basin by downloading a copy of our Bird List and our Tour Maps before your next visit. For a wealth of information about birds and birdwatching in the region, see Birds of the Rainwater Basin by NGPC’s Joel Jorgensen

Tips for birdwatchers

  • Opportunities to watch waterfowl are generally best from mid-February to mid-March. Shorebird viewing is best from mid-April through mid-May.
  • If waterfowl are nearby, please remain in your car to avoid disturbing them. When birding from your vehicle, please use parking areas or pull off to the side of the road.
  • If Whooping Cranes are present, observe from a distance of at least ¼ mile. Please report Whooping Crane sightings to Whooper Watch: 888-399-2824.
  • Many roads in the Rainwater Basin region are unpaved; in the spring they are often muddy and surprisingly slippery. When in doubt, take a different road.
  • Observation blinds are located at: Funk WPA, Massie WPA, and the Ducks Unlimited Verona Complex (see RWBJV Wetland Driving Tour map).
  • Prairie dog towns are at Hultine WPA, Moger WPA, Clark WPA, Gleason WPA, and Prairie Dog WPA.  Check dog towns for Greater Prairie-Chickens in the spring and for Burrowing Owls in the summer.
  • Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. WPAs and WMAs in the driving tour map are open to public use. Please be aware that most are also open to hunting during legal hunting seasons. Also, many are occupied in the summer by grazing cattle.
  • To ensure the availability of open-water habitat in the spring, the USFWS Wetland Management District pumps groundwater at selected wetlands. In dry or below-freezing conditions, pumped wetlands provide the best birdwatching opportunities. For current pumping information in the spring, visit the websites of the Rainwater Basin WMD and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.