Phillips County

County Seat: Phillipsburg
County Size: 894 square miles
County Checklist: 268 species
DeLorme pages 19 & 20

Google Maps of Phillips County

Best Birds: Brown Pelican, Pacific Loon, Red-throated Loon, Pinyon Jay, Bay-breasted Warbler, Sprague’s Pipit, Baird’s Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Common Redpoll

Phillips County is located in north central Kansas, along the Nebraska border. The main east-west highway is U.S. 36, going across the county in the approximate middle, through Prairie View, Stuttgart, Phillipsburg and Agra. The main north-south highway is U.S. 183, bisecting the center of the county through Phillipsburg. Kansas Highway 9 bisects the southern third of the county, going from Logan, through Speed, and Glade, past Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, through Kirwin and into Smith County. This is the same path that the North Fork Solomon River takes through the county. Kansas Highway 383 goes across the northwest corner of the county, from Almena in Norton Co. through Long Island and Woodruff to the Nebraska border, intersecting with U.S. 183.

Phillips County has a diverse mix of upland habitats, with abundant native grass, supporting Greater Prairie Chickens and other grassland species. Areas north and west of Phillipsburg and between Logan and Kirwin all have prairie chickens present. Timber is mostly restricted to riparian zones along creeks and the Solomon River corridor and there is ample farm land throughout the county, supporting waterfowl, Horned Larks, longspurs, etc. Phillips County has some accessible public property to explore. A small acreage shared with Smith County (800 acres total) in the form of the Francis Wachs Wildlife Area, is approximately 3 miles east and 10 miles north of Agra. It is a mix of native grass, planted food plots, shrubs and some riparian area. The area is signed and straddles the county line, with about two-thirds of it is on the Phillips Co. side. Kirwin Reservoir and National Wildlife Refuge in the southeast corner of the county offers the best and most accessible public property.

Birding Locations:

1. North Fork Solomon River – there is no public access to the river, but bridge crossings can be productive, especially south of Logan and Speed. The river flows into Kirwin Reservoir/National Wildlife refuge, so spending some time in the southeast part of the county can be great for waterfowl going out to feed or returning to the lake.

2. Kirwin Reservoir/National Wildlife Refuge – long know as the “Goose Capital of Kansas” the lake and refuge can hold tens of thousands of ducks and geese, especially during fall migration. It has undergone some land-use transformation, with many of the old tree shelterbelts eliminated to promote native grasslands. There is still available riparian habitat on both the Bow Creek and Solomon River arms of the lake and should be checked out. The lake has hosted many interesting water bird species, with both Tundra and Trumpeter swans, most all expected geese and ducks, and other good birds such as Brown Pelican, Pacific, Red-throated and Common Loons, six species of grebes, six species of gulls, and five species of tern. The open water is usually near the east (dam) end, with submerged trees up both the Bow Creek and Solomon River arms of the lake. Kirwin Reservoir is a must-stop if you are birding in Phillips County.

3. Creeks – there are numerous creeks throughout the county, with many small bridges and associated riparian areas that can be birded from the road right-of-ways. Bow Creek, on the southern border with Rooks Co. has decent riparian habitat, with the creek eventually flowing into Kirwin Reservoir. Prairie Dog Creek flows into Phillips Co. from the west, coming out of Keith Sebelius Reservoir in Norton County. This area has K-383 Highway following the path of the creek, offering some opportunity for birding. It crosses out of Kansas into Nebraska to Harlan County Reservoir.

4. Farm ponds – the county has many farm ponds that can hold waterfowl during both spring and fall migration. Larger ones are shown in the DeLorme: page 19, but many other, smaller ones can be found when driving the countryside

5. County roads – Phillips County can have some productive birding accomplished by driving county roads. With the mix of agricultural fields, pastures and other grasslands, and riparian areas, many birds can be seen on a day trip, especially raptors, sparrows, longspurs, etc. There is good habitat northeast of Phillipsburg, near the Nebraska border, with a few interesting breeding birds located in the past, including Long-eared Owl, Black-billed Cuckoo and Chipping Sparrow.

6. Towns – many species can be found in the towns of the county, including Long Island, Prairie View, Logan, Kirwin and Phillipsburg. Birding in some of these communities, especially Phillipsburg, can be good, with many pines and other coniferous trees there to attract northern finches in winter.

Phillips County is somewhat under-birded and probably could have quite a few more passerine bird species added to its list, if birders are there in peak migration. The water bird list is pretty good, with Kirwin Reservoir harboring most of the records, but it could turn up an unexpected species of gull or other water bird species with more birders visiting the county. The passerine list is short on warblers, which can hopefully can be increased with more birders visiting the county.

Updated February 2013 - MR

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