Sandhill Cranes - Bird Watching Spectacle In Nebraska
By Ric Chamberlin, LMT

Central Nebraska is host of one of the greatest bird watching spectacles in the world, the annual spring
migration of Sandhill Cranes. I have made this trek countless times but each time I am in awe of what I
see and hear.

Each year after wintering in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico the cranes make the Platte River valley of
central Nebraska a stopover in their journey to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. They
start arriving sometime in February, staying about one month to feed on invertebrates and waste corn in
the fields along the Platte River. The arrival and departure is staggered with the last cranes leaving by
mid April. This stop in Nebraska allows the cranes to add body fat that will sustain them for the rest of
their trip and for the initial nest building in the tundra areas in the north.

Cranes spend their night in the shallow Platte River, arriving at dusk. They like it’s wide banks to provide
them safety from predators. At sunrise they take to the fields to feed.
Approximately 500,000 cranes make their way to a relatively narrow stretch of the Platte between Grand
Island and North Platte. The peak numbers occur about the third week of March but Large numbers are
often present in early March. An added bonus in the first half of March is the large number of Snow
Geese, Canada Geese, and eagles present.

What I love most about the cranes is their trumpeting call. It can carry for a long distance and is the most
primal sound I’ve ever experienced in the natural world. Fossil record show that Cranes of undetermined
species have been in Nebraska for 10 million years and Sandhill Cranes have been visiting at least 2
1/2 million years.

To view a short video of Sandhill Cranes go
here.

A central point in Crane viewing is The Audubon Society
Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon Nebraska. They
protect many acres along the Platte where the Crane concentration is greatest. Trips to view Crane
roosting at sunrise and sunset are available from blinds along the river.
During the migration you can hear/view a
live webcam from Rowe Sanctuary. Note that these views of
the river will not show cranes during the day, only around sunrise and sunset. You may see geese and
eagles during the day or hear Cranes in the background. The link to the webcam can be found on the

Rowe Sanctuary
website.

I do my viewing between Grand Island and Kearney. Starting on The Platte River Road at Doniphan if
you travel west along the back roads you will see, and hear, Cranes in the fields just about everywhere
during the migration season. Some of these back roads are seldom traveled and you can pull off to the
side for viewing. Other roads require looking for designated pulloff viewing areas. There are many. Your
car makes an excellent blind and can protect you from the cold and wind you are likely to encounter on
the Nebraska plains in March.
While viewing notice the dance the birds often do.
Another plus is that with the transition from winter you can witness many other signs of the emergence of
spring making this trip a great way to celebrate spring.

For more photos, videos, and more information:

  • Photos, video, and information about places where you can view cranes can be found here.
  • The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have a page with info and videos here.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to view this spectacle in Nebraska you are missing out on a natural
treat. Words and photos can’t describe the experience. After more than 15 trips the only word I can use
to describe it is
awe.


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Ric Chamberlin
Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ®
Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska
The Healing Connection
900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE  68114
402 850 0752
Art by Jacqueline Bequette - ŠThe Healing Connection