One of the most common questions we receive at the Great Plains Nature Center is from birders traveling through Kansas in winter: “Where can I find Harris’s Sparrow?” I’m always happy to tell them the handsome pink-billed bird can be seen at the center, which lies within 240-acre Chisholm Creek Park. I commonly see the sparrows feeding on the ground under the bird feeders or in the brushy hedgerows throughout the park.
Chisholm Creek’s breeding birds reflect its varied habitats. Bell’s Vireo, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting, and Cooper’s Hawk all nest in the park. Eight species of heron and egret are seen regularly. Ducks and geese, along with dozens of turtles, swim beneath the boardwalks hoping for a handout of floating fish food that can be purchased at the nature center.
Rare sightings include American and Least Bitterns, White-faced Ibis, and Yellow Rail. Mississippi Kites nest throughout the city, and during late summer I’ve seen as many as 20 at a time swooping after flying insects over the park. The birds and wildlife are acclimated to the park’s many visitors. Take your camera for cooperative wildlife models. — Bob Gress
Bob Gress is a wildlife photographer and the author of several books about birds, birding, and wildlife in Kansas. He is the former director of the Great Plains Nature Center.