Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers are an integral part of the fauna of Nebraska and, historically, flourished along the Missouri River and its tributaries, the Platte, Loup, Niobrara and Elkhorn rivers.
These birds were frequently seen by the early explorers and pioneers who passed through the area that would become Nebraska:
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark observed Least Terns on their 1803–1805 “Voyage of Discovery,” referring to them as a ‘frequently observed bird’
Terns were the first new bird species noted by Lewis and Clark; on 5 August 1804 they saw terns in present day Washington County
Clark, writing about terns, commented “this bird is very noysey when flying which it dose extremely swift the motion of the wing is much like that of Kildee it has two notes like the squaking of a small pig only on reather a higher kee, and the other kit’-tee’-kit’-tee’—as near as letters can express the sound.”
Lewis and Clark also observed Piping Plovers, referring to them as ‘small kildee.’
Members of the Major Stephen Long Expedition found Least Terns nesting along the Missouri River in present-day Washington County.
Ferdinand Hayden, with the Warren Expedition, noted that Least Terns and Piping Plovers were very abundant and nested on sandbars in the Platte River.
Paul Wilhelm, Duke of Wurttemberg, found Least Terns nesting on sandbars near the mouth of the Platte River in present day Cass County.
John James Audubon observed Least Terns near the confluence of the Vermillion and Missouri Rivers in present day Dixon County.
Members of the Gouverner Kemble Warren Expedition found Least Terns and Piping Plovers nesting on sandbars near the confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers (an area they called the Loup Fork), in present day Platte County
Least Terns were found nesting along the North Platte River, east of Ash Hollow, in present day Keith County
1860s and 1870s
Least Terns were found nesting in Cedar, Dixon, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties in the 1860s and 1870s.
Piping Plovers were found nesting in Dakota, Dixon, Sarpy, and Wayne counties during the 1860s and 1870s.