County Seat: Hugoton
County Size: 727 square miles
County Checklist: 226 species
DeLorme pages 67 & 68
Google Maps of Stevens County
Best Birds: Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Black-chinned, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Dusky Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Steller’s and Western Scrub Jays, Bushtit
Stevens County is located in southwest Kansas, along the Oklahoma border, just to the west of Liberal and to the south of Ulysses. It’s on the way to several traditional birding areas of southwest Kansas, but not usually the destination. U.S 56 Highway cuts a transect from northeast to southwest through Moscow and Hugoton, on the way to Elkhart and the Cimarron National Grasslands in Morton Co. Kansas State Highway 51 connects U. S. 83 Highway, north of Liberal, to Hugoton in the center of the Stevens County. Kansas Highway 25 enters the Stevens County from the north, connecting Ulysses to Hugoton. There are sand hill regions throughout the county that could be explored for bird species utilizing that habitat type. Lesser Prairie Chickens and Scaled Quail have been found in Steven County in appropriate habitat. There are also many playas that host many bird species in wetter years.
1. Cimarron River/Cimarron National Grasslands – the river crosses into Stevens County northwest of Hugoton. The sand hills in this area have held Lesser Prairie Chickens and Scaled Quail in the past, but oil and gas exploration has disturbed much of the available habitat. There is a small portion of the Cimarron National Grasslands along the stretch of river and could host other birds including Cassin’s & Western Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Brewer’s, Lark & Cassin’s Sparrows, and Lark Bunting. Access is pretty limited, with caution needed in driving the sandy, county roads in that area
2. Playa lakes – the county has some playas that can hold waterfowl and shorebirds during both spring and fall migration. Larger ones are shown in the DeLorme: page 67 & 68, but many other, smaller ones can be found when driving the countryside. These are highly dependent on weather conditions, with most dry during all but the wettest years. Some irrigation tail-water pits are available for birds to utilize, but with the popularity of center pivot irrigation, these are few and far in between. A very good map resource of playa lakes is maintained by the Playa Lakes Joint Venture.
3. County roads – Stevens County can have some productive birding accomplished by driving county roads. During fall and winter months, raptors are usually abundant, with a good mix of Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcons, and an occasional Merlin, Golden Eagle or Chihuahuan Raven possible. Agriculture fields make up most of the land adjacent to roads, providing habitat for Horned Larks, longspurs and occasionally waterfowl and sparrows. Cassin’s Sparrows can be found in good stands of yucca and Brewer’s Sparrows possible in areas with abundant sagebrush.
4. Towns – Moscow and Hugoton are the only towns in the county, making for somewhat limited birding opportunities. Most of the decent passerine bird records have come from residents or by pass-through of birders on county listing trips. Hugoton provides the best opportunities for birding, with the neighborhoods south of Kansas 51 Highway and east of U.S. 56 (due east of Hugoton High School) pretty good for hummingbirds in the fall, doves, winter finches and other birds. The city cemetery, located on the southeast part of town, south of Kansas 51 Highway has been very reliable for Curve-billed Thrasher for the past several years. There is a feed yard to the northeast of Hugoton, along U.S. 56 Highway that had been somewhat reliable for Chihuahuan Raven in the past, but not so much in recent years.
Stevens 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 prime migration. It has little available surface water, which can be problematic in dry years trying to find water birds. Many playas will host shorebirds and waterfowl when adequate moisture is available. The towns and playas should be checked out on the way through and maybe we can grow the list for this county more.
Updated March 2013 - MR
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