Nebraska Authors

Paul A. Johnsgard

Born 1931-06-28 Fargo, ND (USA)

Died 2021-05-28
Lincoln, NE

Image of Paul A. Johnsgard

Image of Paul A. Johnsgard

Paul Austin Johnsgard is a Nebraska scientist, ornithologist, artist and professor emeritus at UNL. As he closed in on the publication of 75 books with his survey of the Yellowstone ecosystem (in 2012), he was already the most most published ornithologist of all time, the most published author in the history of the University of Nebraska, and the most prolific of all Nebraska authors, of fiction or non-fiction.

Johnsgard is one of Nebraska's most famous scholars. He is a world authority on waterfowl behavior and on several other bird groups such as grouse and cranes. His Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior (Cornell University Press, 1965) is considered the classic reference work on the subject. His book Grouse and Quails of North America received a Wildlife Society honor and Waterfowl: Their Biology and Natural History received honorable mention from the Wildlife Society and many other awards. His publications in professional scientific journals exceed 150.

Johnsgard is also famous for his world surveys of the major bird groups, which, appearing regularly over some 40 years, have finally made him the most prolific of all ornithological writers. He has written books on regional natural history, on the Platte River, on Teton and Yellowstone wildlife, and classic natural histories of special interest to Nebraska readers, among them: This Fragile Land: A Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills, 1995, The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity, 2001, The Niobrara: A River Running Through Time, 2007, and a collection of essays, Seasons of a Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year, 2014.

He has written several books in the genre of literary appreciation of aspects of nature, including books on the Sandhill crane and the snow goose. One of these, Song of the North Wind, was translated into Russian and Latvian. With his daughter Karin, Johnsgard wrote a whimsical book on dragons and unicorns. Many of his books are illustrated with his own sketches and artwork.

Johnsgard has been awarded four national conservation awards in recognition of his ornithological writing and conservation work and has been an Ames Reader in the Heritage Room in 1996, 2004, and 2007. Videos of readings are available.

Gillian Klucas, "A Beautiful Mind," Nebraska Magazine Summer 2002, Vol. 98, No. 2.
James L. Hayward, "Beguiled by Birds," Living Bird Autumn 1994 Vol. 13 No. 4.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE
North Dakota
Washington State
Ithaca, NY
Bristol, ENGLAND

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction


Nature; Natural History; Zoology; Waterfowl; Eiseley scholar; Ecology, Ornithology; Nebraska subjects


North Dakota State School of Science, 1951
Bachelor of Science, 1953, North Dakota State University
Master of Science, 1955, Washington State University, Pullman
Ph.D., 1959, Cornell University
University of Bristol, ENGLAND, 1959-61



Places Worked

University of Nebraska - Lincoln


“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 53 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
University of Nebraska Distinguished Teaching award, 1968
Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 1970
Fullbright-Hays Award, 1980
Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences, UNL, 1980
University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, 1984
Omaha World Herald- One of the 100 outstanding Nebraskans of the 20th century, 1999
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, 2001
John H. Ames Reading Series, Featured Reader, 21 November 1996, 18 March 2004 and 20 September 2007
Nebraska 150 Books honor for Seasons of the Tallgrass Prarie and The Niobrara, 2017
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Great Plains Studies, 2017
Nebraska Literary Heritage Association’s Literary Heritage Award, 2018
Listed in American Men and Women of Science
Various literary awards


Wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen (Friend and former student)
Collaborated with his daughter, Karin Johnsgard, on a whimiscal book about dragons and unicorns.


Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior. 1965.
Animal Behavior. 1967.
Waterfowl: Their Biology and Natural History. 1968.
Animal Behavior: Second Edition. 1972.
Grouse and Quails of North America. 1973.
Song of the North Wind: A Story of the Snow Goose. 1974. (Russian Ed. 1977, Latvian Ed.1980)
North American Game Birds of Upland and Shoreline. 1975.
Waterfowl of North America. 1975.
The Bird Decoy: An American Art Form. 1976.
Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World. 1978.
Birds of the Great Plains: Breeding Species and their Distribution. 1979.
A Guide to North American Waterfowl. 1979.
The Plovers, Sandpipers and Snipes of the World. 1981.
Those of the Gray Wind: The Sandhill Cranes. 1981. (Re-printed 1987, Chinese Ed. 1996)
Teton Wildlife: Observations by a Naturalist. 1982.
Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History. 1982. (with Karin Johnsgard.)
The Grouse of the World. 1983.
The Hummingbirds of North America. 1983.
The Cranes of the World. 1983.
The Platte: Channels in Time. 1984. (Second Ed. 2008)
Prairies Children, Mountain Dreams. 1985.
The Pheasants of the World. 1986.
Birds of the Rocky Mountains, with Particular Reference to National Parks in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. 1986. (Re-printed 1993)
Diving Birds of North America. 1987.
Waterfowl of North America: The Complete Ducks, Geese and Swans. 1987.
The Quails, Partridges and Francolins of the World. 1988.
North American Owls: Biology and Natural History. 1988.
Hawks, Eagles and Falcons of North America: Biology and Natural History. 1990.
Crane Music: A Natural History of American Cranes. 1991. (Re-printed 1997)
Bustards, Hemiphods, and Sandgrouse: Birds of Dry Places. 1991.
Ducks in the Wild: Conserving Waterfowl and their Habitats. 1992.
Cormorants, Darters and Pelicans of the World. 1993.
Arena Birds: Sexual Selection and Behavior. 1994.
This Fragile Land: A Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills. 1995.
Ruddy Ducks and other Stifftails: Their Behavior and Biology. 1996. (With Montserrat Carbonell)
The Avian Brood Parasites: Deception at the Nest. 1997.
The Hummingbirds of North America: Second Edition. 1997.
Baby Bird Portraits By George Miksch Sutton: Watercolors in the Field Museum. 1998.
Earth, Water and Sky: A Naturalist's Stories and Sketches. 1999.
The Pheasants of the World: Biology and Natural History. 1999. (enlarged update of The Pheasants of the World, 1986.
Trogons and Quetzals of the World. 2000.
Prairie Birds: Fragile Splendor in the Great Plains. 2001.
The Nature of Nebraska. 2001.
Trogans and Quetzals of the World. 2001.
The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity. 2001.
The Grassland Grouse and their Conservation. 2002.
North American Owls: Biology and Natural History: Second Edition. 2002.
Migrations of the Imagination. 2002. (Catalog of art Exhibition)
Great Wildlife of the Great Plains. 2003.
Lewis and Clark on the Great Plains: A Natural History. 2003.
Faces of the Great Plains: Prairie Wildlife. 2003. (With photos and photographic notes by Bob Gress)
Prairie Dog Empire:A Saga of the Shortgrass Prairie. 2004. (Re-printed 2013)
Prairie Suite: A Celebration. 2006. ( Illustrator, poems by Twyla Hansen )
The Niobrara: A River Running Through It. 2007.
A Guide to the Natural History of the Central Platte Valley Nebraska. 2007.
Wind Through the Buffalo Grass: A Lakota Story Cycle. 2008.
A Guide to the Tallgrass Prairies of Eastern Nebraska and Adjacent States. 2008. (University of Nebraska Digital Commons)
The Status of Cranes of the World in 2008: A Supplement to Crane Music. 2008.
Louis A. Fuertes and the Zoological Art of the 1926-1927 Abyssinian Expedition of the Field Museum of Natural History. 2009.
Four Decades of Christmas Bird Counts in the Great Plains: Ornithological Evidence of a Changing Climate. 2009.
Celebrating Charles Darwin's Legacy: Evolution in the Great Plains and Galapagos Islands. 2009. (Catalog of Art Exhibit)
The Sandhill and Whooping Cranes: Ancient Voices Over America's Wetlands. 2011.
Rocky Mountain Birds:Birds and Birding in the Central and Northern Rocky Mountains. 2011.
A Nebraska Bird-Finding Guide. 2011.
Nebraska's Wetlands: Their Wildlife and Ecology. 2012.
Wings Over the Great Plains: The Central Flyway. 2012.
Wetland Birds of the Central Plains: South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. 2012.
A Prairie's Not Scary. 2012.
Birds of Central Platte Valley, Nebraska. 2013.
The Birds of Nebraska. 2013. (In several revised editions, the most recent in 2018)
Yellowstone Wildlife: Ecology and Natural History of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 2013.
Birds and Birding in the Bighorn Mountains Region of Wyoming. 2013. (with Jacqueline R.Canterbury and Helen Dunning)
Game Birds of the World: A Catalog of the Madson Collection. 2014.
Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year. 2014.
Global Warming and Populations Responses among Great Plains Birds. 2015.
Natural Treasures of the Great Plains: An Ecological Perspective. 2015. (Edited with T. Lynch and J. Phillips)
At Home and at Large on the Great Plains: Essays and Memories. 2015.
A Chorus of Cranes: The Cranes of North America and the World. 2015.
Birding Nebraska's Central Platte Valley and Rainwater Basin. 2015.
Swans: Their Biology and Natural History. 2016.
The North American Grouse: Biology and Behavior . 2016. (University of Nebraska Digital Commons)
The North American Sea Ducks: Their Biology and Behavior. 2016. (University of Nebraska Digital Commons)
The North American Perching and Dabbling Ducks: Biology and Behavior. 2016.
The North American Whistling-Ducks, Pochards and Stifftails. 2017.
Common Birds of The Bradford Brinton Museum and The Bighorn Mountains Foothills. 2017.
The North American Quails, Partridges and Pheasants. 2017.
Those of the Gray Wind: The Sandhill Cranes, New Edition. 2017.
The Birds of Nebraska. 2018.
The Ecology of a Tallgrass Treasure. 2018.
A Naturalist’s Guide to the Great Plains. 2018.
Wyoming's Ucross Ranch: Its Birds, History, and Natural Environment. 2018. (with Jacqueline L. Canterbury)
Wyoming Wildlife: A Natural History. 2019.
The Abyssinian Art of Louis Agassiz Fuertes in the Field Museum. 2020.
Audubon’s Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary: A River, A Refuge, and a Migration. 2020.
Wildlife of Nebraska: A Natural History. 2020.
The Lives, Lore, and Literature of Cranes. 2020.
The Birds of the Nebraska Sandhills. 2020. (with Josef Kren)

Paul Johnsgard's December 1985 program on his book Prairie Children, Mountain Dreams:

Johnsgard's November 1996 Ames Reading Series presentation:

March 2004 Ames Reading Series:

September 2007 Ames Reading Series presentation with Paul Johnsgard and Twyla Hansen:

October 2017 Ames Reading Series program. Paul Johnsgard's presentation can be viewed at 1:00:18:50:

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Paul A. Johnsgard

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)