Every year Nebraska is honored to host very special guests from Mid-February through Mid-April when the Sandhill cranes begin their Spring Migration. For some reason they all congregate in Central Nebraska and it is a sight that is astounding. When you go to see this annual event the first thing you notice is the noise. You can hear these birds well before you see them. During the day there is constant movement with some taking off while others are coming in and when a huge flock like the one in the video take off it is breathtaking.
The Migration lasts for 6 weeks and you can see them along the Platte River in the central part of the state.They have found fossilized Sandhill crane bones dating back 9 million years.It has been said that 80% of all Sandhill cranes will stop and rest, fatten up before continuing their annual spring migration to their breeding grounds in Alaska, Canada and Siberia.
Besides the Sandhill cranes you can find ducks, Canadian Geese, Eagles including Bald Eagles, shore birds and many others that migrate through Nebraska on their way back to where they spend their summers. Spring and fall we have the privilege of being able to enjoy watching the geese fly over head they are so beautiful at dawn and dusk. My favorites have always been the Robins.I know that spring is on it's way when I see their happy faces bouncing around my yard as they look for bugs.
Crane Facts per Nebraska Fish and Game:
|3-4 feet||Height||5 feet|
|6 feet||Wingspan||7 1/2 feet|
|8-12 pounds||Weight||14 pounds|
|170-450 miles/day||Migration||200-500 miles/day|
|38 mph||Flight Speed||47 mph|
|N. Canada, Alaska, Siberia||Nesting Area||N. Alberta, NW Territories|
|Texas, Mexico, New Mexico||Wintering Area||Aransas NWR (SE Texas)|
|Begins 3-4 years||Mating||Begins 5 years|
|2 per year||Eggs||2 per year|
|20-40 years||Lifespan||20-40 years|
|Grus canadensis||Scientific Name||Grus americana|
Great places to see the cranes is Grand Island and Kearney however anywhere on the Platte in midwest Nebraska you will find them. During the migration you are apt to see them anywhere, Canadian geese too!
If you were to go looking for cranes there are some rules you need to mind so I copied them for you:
Crane Watcher Etiquette Per Nebraska Parks and Game
The Platte River and the surrounding area provide essential food and nutrients that sustain sandhill cranes for the rest of migration and for nesting. Disturbances during their critical stay in Nebraska can cause the birds to leave in poor condition, jeopardizing reproductive success when they arrive on their northern nesting grounds.
Crane watchers should avoid disturbing the cranes at their roosting or feeding areas:
- Do not approach cranes on foot while they are in fields. Cranes do not tolerate humans.
- Stay in your car and use it as a blind.
- Use appropriate locations for viewing the cranes on the river. Do not attempt to approach or otherwise disturb cranes on the river.
Many paved and gravel roads traverse the area, and traffic travels fast. While driving to crane viewing areas, observe the following rules:
- Do not slow or stop on the road. Drive onto the shoulder.
- Never slow down or stop on bridges.
- Never block a driveway or any other farm road.
- Most land adjacent to the river and all of the agricultural fields are private property, so visitors should:
- Stay on county roads. Do not drive on farm roads.
- Assume all property is private and obtain owner permission before entering.
- Never cross a fence or open a cattle gate without the owner's permission.
- Do not disturb farm animals, cross cropland or touch farm equipment. Respect the rights of the people who live in the area.