Site Description: Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge supports exceptional diversity of plants and wildlife representative of the Northern Great Plains and geographic regions east, west, north, and south of there. Six major plant communities converge along the Niobrara River and are situated according to their habitat needs and tolerances. Sandhills prairie grows atop sand dunes south of the river and mixed-grass prairie is found on hard tablelands to the north. Rocky Mountain coniferous forest occurs on dry, rocky soils and steep eroding cliffs. Plants from the eastern deciduous forest, northern boreal forest, and tallgrass prairie plant communities inhabit water-rich areas such as the river floodplain and canyon walls.
The Niobrara River flows eastward across the 19,000-acre Refuge for nine miles and is part of the 76-mile section of the River that is included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Ornithological Summary: Fort Niobrara lies on the western edge of the east/west ecological transition zone between forest types, and thus has a fine mixture of eastern and western species. Western/eastern species pairs that occur and may hybridize include such forms as Western and Eastern Wood-Pewee, Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern and Spotted Towhee, Lazuli and Indigo Bunting, and Bullock's and Baltimore Oriole. A total of at least 230 species (76 breeders) have been reported. Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chickens can be viewed through observation blinds. There are also good breeding numbers for the Burrowing Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Bobolink, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern and Western Meadowlarks.
For more information, call or write Kevin Poague, Important Bird Areas Coordinator, Audubon Nebraska, P.O. Box 117, 11700 SW 100th Street, Denton, NE 68339 402-797-2301, Fax: 402-797-2304.