Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Unpublished manuscript. Shoemaker Collection, University of Nebraska-Lincoln archives.

The Birds of Childs' Point Region

By Frank H. Shoemaker.

The valley of the Missouri River immediately below the city of Omaha lies between steep bluffs, the river skirting the base of those on the Nebraska side, while on the Iowa side there intervenes a broad, flat area, much of it subject to overflow during periods of high water. Several miles below the city on the Nebraska side is a heavily wooded tract, extending over the bluffs and well back from the river, which at this point sweeps away from the base of bluffs and leaves a broad, flat expanse overgrown with cottonwood and willows. Numerous springs in the bluffs mingle their waters in a narrow, reed-grown stream, which soon spreads over a wide area and forms a marsh, filled with rushes, reeds and cattails. Back from the river the surface is rugged and hilly, covered with heavy woodland and undergrowth, traversed by several broad, grassgrown valleys and numerous deep, shady ravines. This woodland continues to the summit of a ridge which roughly parallels the valley of the river; beyond this point lie fertile fields. In summer the lesser vegetation is very heavy, the bottomlands particularly being covered with an almost impassable tangle of vines and weeds, while many places on the bluffs are overgrown with dense thickets, though that region is chiefly woodland, of every character from tracts of stunted second growth to extensive areas covered with massive oaks and lindens.

This section is known locally as the Childs' Point region for want of distinguishing terms for its various portions, though strictly speaking, the "Point" is a small part of the area so designated. Rounded by the river, and embracing areas so distinct in character - sandbars, bottomlands, marshes, occasional small bodies of open water, dense thickets, timberland of diverse character, and open fields - this region is peculiarly fitted to attract a great variety of birds.


Pied-billed Grebe. Occasionally found in marsh below Coffin Spring.

Least Bittern. Occasionally found in marsh below Coffin Spring.

Great Blue Heron. Frequently seen in bottom lands by river.

Green-backed Heron. Common summer resident.

Black-crowned Night Heron. Occasionally seen in summer.

Turkey Vulture. Rare summer resident, not common.

Osprey. Occasionally seen during migrations.

Northern Harrier. Common migrant.

Sharp-shinned Hawk. Seen during spring migrations.

Cooper's Hawk. Common summer resident.

Red-shouldered Hawk. Occasionally seen during migrations.

Broad-winged Hawk. Summer resident.

Swainson's Hawk. Occasionally seen during migrations.

Red-tailed Hawk. Common summer resident.

American Kestrel. Occasionally seen during migrations.

Prairie Falcon. One specimen shot May 2, 1894. Reported by I.S. Trostler.

Ruffed Grouse. Rare resident.

Northern Bobwhite. Fairly common resident.

Killdeer. Occasional during summer in fields.

Spotted Sandpiper. Seen along river banks and Mosquito take in summer.

American Woodcock. Rare summer resident.

Mourning Dove. Common summer resident.

Passenger Pigeon. A flock of six seen late in the afternoon of March 7, 1897, by I.S. Trostler.

Black-billed Cuckoo. Summer resident.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Common summer resident.

Common Barn-Owl.

Eastern Screech Owl. Common resident.

Great Horned Owl. Resident, not common.

Barred Owl. Common resident.

Long-eared Owl.

Common Nighthawk. Common summer resident.

Whip-poor-will. Common summer resident.

Chimney Swift. Common summer resident.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Summer resident each year.

Belted Kingfisher. Common summer resident.

Red-headed Woodpecker. Common summer resident.

Red-bellied Woodpecker. Rare summer resident.

Downy Woodpecker. Common resident.

Hairy Woodpecker. Common resident; breeds sparingly.

Northern Flicker. Common summer resident.

Eastern Wood-Pewee. Common summer resident.

Acadian Flycatcher. Common summer resident.

Willow Flycatcher. Common summer resident.

Least Flycatcher. Rare migrant.

Eastern Phoebe. Common summer resident. Nest of phoebe in cement culvert which passes under CB & Q main line track Omaha-Plattsmouth-Chicago, connecting the two parts of Mosquito take. Contained 2 young and 2 eggs; too dark in culvert for photograph. A very pretty nest; massive, with strong walls, anchored upon projection of not over an inch; an architectural feat.

Great Crested Flycatcher. Common summer resident.

Western Kingbird. Rare migrant.

Eastern Kingbird. Common summer resident.

Horned Lark. Common resident.

Purple Martin.

Bank Swallow.

Barn Swallow.

Blue Jay. Common resident.

American Crow. Common resident.

Black-capped Chickadee. Common resident.

Tufted Titmouse. Rare resident.

White-breasted Nuthatch. Common resident.

Brown Creeper. Common winter resident.

House Wren. Common summer resident.

Winter Wren. Rare winter resident.

Marsh Wren. Rarely seen in marsh below Coffin Spring.

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Common migrant; rare winter resident.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Common migrant; rare winter resident.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Common summer resident.

Veery. Rare migrant.

Swainson's Thrush. Common migrant.

Wood Thrush. Common summer resident.

American Robin. Common summer resident.

Gray Catbird. Common summer resident.

Brown Thrasher. Common summer resident.

Bohemian Waxwing. Irregular winter visitant. Flocks observed Nov. 10th and 24th, 1895, by L. Skow and I.S. Trostler.

Cedar Waxwing. Common during migrations and in winter; uncommon summer resident.

Loggerhead Shrike. Uncommon resident.

White-eyed Vireo. Common summer resident.

Bell's Vireo. Common summer resident.

Black-capped Vireo. Straggler; one observed June 19, 1894, by I.S. Trostler and L. Skow.

Solitary Vireo. Rare summer resident.

Yellow-throated Vireo. Uncommon summer resident.

Warbling Vireo. Common summer resident.

Red-eyed Vireo. Common summer resident.

Blue-winged Warbler. Common summer resident.

Tennessee Warbler. Common migrant.

Orange-crowned Warbler. Common migrant.

Northern Parula. Common migrant.

Yellow Warbler. Common summer resident.

Chestnut-sided Warbler. Common migrant, rare summer resident.

Yellow-rumped Warbler. Common migrant.

Blackpoll Warbler. Common migrant.

Cerulean Warbler. Common summer resident.

Black-and-white Warbler. Common migrant; rare summer resident. Nest with young found June 16, 1894, by G.W. Sabine.

American Redstart. Common summer resident.

Prothonotary Warbler. Irregular summer resident, common some years, absent others.

Ovenbird. Common summer resident.

Louisiana Waterthrush. Fairly common summer resident; several pairs breed each year.

June 1 1902: "Nest close beside last year's nest. There is a minor drainage cut leading into Happy Valley; black soil, humus, decayed leaves of many years, this being in woodland on border of wide, open ravine. Soil too soft to have maintained a perpendicular bank 2 in feet high except by reason of soil-binding protective cover of surface vegetation. Under the brink of this bank the nest is placed, as was last year's, quite invisible under drooping grass and poison ivy, which had to be tied back to take photographs. Three eggs. Took also photograph showing from distance of several feet, character of the nesting site.

A nest of the water thrush near the Mill Hollow spring has been suspected for some time, but I failed to locate it. Today I saw two young birds, able to fly well, and carefully attended by the parents; probably one or two others are near by. The little fellows have the 'teetering' propensities of their elders, and favored us with excellent opportunity to observe them at close range.

Kentucky Warbler. Common migrant and rare summer resident.

Mourning Warbler. Rare migrant, formerly common.

Common Yellowthroat. Common summer resident.

Wilson's Warbler. Rare migrant.

Yellow-breasted Chat. Common summer resident.

Scarlet Tanager.

Northern Cardinal.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Indigo Bunting.


Rufous-sided Towhee.

American Tree Sparrow. Abundant migrant and winter resident.

Chipping Sparrow. Summer resident, not common.

Clay-colored Sparrow. Abundant migrant.

Field Sparrow. Common summer resident.

Lark Sparrow. Common summer resident.

Grasshopper Sparrow. Common summer resident.

Song Sparrow. Common migrant.

White-throated Sparrow. Common migrant.

White-crowned Sparrow. Common migrant.

Harris' Sparrow. Common migrant and winter visitant.

Dark-eyed Junco. Abundant migrant, less common winter resident.

Red-winged Blackbird. Common summer resident.

Western Meadowlark. Common summer resident.

Yellow-headed Blackbird. Occasionally found in marsh below Coffin Spring.

Rusty Blackbird. Abundant during migrations.

Common Grackle. Common summer resident.

Brown-headed Cowbird. Common summer resident.

Orchard Oriole. Common summer resident.

Northern (Baltimore) Oriole. Common summer resident.

Pine Grosbeak. Irregular winter visitant. A flock of five on January 2 1897, and a flock of 15 on January 12, 1897, observed by I.S. Trostler.

Purple Finch. Irregular migrant and winter visitant.

House Finch. Rare migrant (autumn of 1895; reported by L. Skow).

Common Redpoll. Common migrant.

Pine Siskin. Irregular migrant and winter visitant.

American Goldfinch. Common resident.

House Sparrow. Common resident.

Field trip note record started in 1898.

June 10 1898

We found a funny little spreading adder, or hog-nosed snake, fifteen inches long. It is quite harmless, but it does look poisonous. It vibrates its tail rapidly, and when this happens among dead and dried leaves, one jumps plenty, and ascertains later that it was not a rattlesnake.

Saw three boys in second ravine skinning a large garter snake. They were interested, but making heavy work of it, and welcomed my aid. We located the functional and the atrophied lung, the heart, etc. The snake when killed was swallowing a large frog; in the stomach we found another large frog which had been swallowed legs first as usual. This snake certainly had a good appetite.

June 12

Mulberries ripe in the woods. Gooseberries large; an excellent yield. A few wild raspberries. Last of the Strawberries.

May 30 1902

Quiz and I took to the Albright-Childs' Point woods, arriving there 12:30. Weather very fine. Had planned a long trip but it was shortened by a pleasing circumstance to appear later. Our brief bird list - 39 species.

Nest of catbird, 8 feet up, elm, 3 eggs.

Nest of Yellow Warbler, 3 feet up in Indian currant, 4 eggs.

Nest of Yellow Warbler, 8 feet up, elm, not examined.

Nest of Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 10 feet up, elm, 2 eggs.

Nest of Downy Woodpecker, 20 feet up in dead oak, the birds carrying food to young birds whose clamor we could hear. The parents carried away excretions which we could see them drop in the woods.

The happy interruption of our plans came about by meeting, at the foot of Mill Hollow, a party consisting of Dr. Wolcott and Prof. Bruner from the University at Lincoln, Trostler and Wallace. We had so many things to discuss that we loafed and talked for two hours, then returned to Omaha together. On the way we found many strawberries; and were at one point interested to watch ants 'milking' aphids. I copied the list of 71 species of birds they had seen.

May 9 1903

Migration is in full swing; our list of 45 species would have been larger except for interruption of showers. We had barely reached the second valley when it became so threatening that we thought best to seek shelter; so we raced up the valley to a little hut which we had previously noted, not far from the Bellevue road.

We had naturally expected to find the shack empty; instead, it was occupied by a poor old man, and was in deplorable state; packed dirt floor, the single 8-foot room not over 6 feet high, filled to the capacity with traps and calamities. The old man was kindly and hospitable, but he was obviously sensitive and disturbed over the poor accommodations which he could offer; so to save his feelings we kept on. He directed us to a tent farther up the ravine which from his statements we expected to find nearby; but it proved to be a long half-mile.

The rain started before we had gone a hundred yards, and came down in sheets with electrical trimmings and large drums. Quiz is an awfully good Indian; she chatted merrily when the thunder would let her. We plodded along and found the tent; where we were heartily and numerously welcomed.

It was occupied by a wood-chopper, his wife, his father, and six children. A great stove generously fed with dry oak maintained a comfortable temperature; the tent was rectangular, about 9x12 with 4-foot walls. This wood-chopper has been assigned the sorry task of destroying 160 acres of our best bird woodland.

Inasmuch as I was as wet as I could possibly get I left Quiz by the warm stove, and went for a ramble of a couple miles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was raining steadily; when the temperature is mild I enjoy getting wet by the clean rain, in preference to getting quite as wet by sweltering in a raincoat. The birds positively revel in a rain-storm; they sing and chatter with the greatest enthusiasm. I found a few morels; the folk in the tent having collected several bushels of them.

I failed to mention that in passing through the valley today in our race for shelter, we barely took time to run our fingers into the three chickadees' nests, finding all occupied. Sorry we could not have taken some photographs.

We left the tent at 3:45, cut across the clearing to Childs' house, followed the road to railroad track and that to Albright, where we struck the car-line and proceeded homeward without incident. A sorry sort of day, but with some nice points. Quiz kept fairly dry except feet and legs; and a wetting never hurts me.

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