Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Know Nebraska: Sandhill Cranes in the North Platte Area

In Nebraska, Kearney (the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World) and Grand Island get all of the notoriety when it comes to the Sandhill Crane migration. Each year approximately 600,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate through Nebraska and spend about six weeks in the Platte River Valley fortifying themselves for their breeding and nesting season.

The great Central Flyway that these birds use in their migration bottlenecks right through central Nebraska. While Kearney and Grand Island like to claim that the flyway is only about 80 miles in width, just taking in their two communities, and extending a little way to either side, as you'll see, North Platte gets plenty of Sandhill Crane action. There is also a nice sized group of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through west of Lake McConaughy in the Lewellen and Oshkosh area.

This year, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission placed a viewing blind on the North Platte River at the North River Wildlife Management Area just north of Hershey. It is placed with great viewing opportunities of a very nice sized roost.
Sandhill Cranes on the morning of March 13, 2016.
 Both above and below, Sandhll Cranes on the morning of Sunday, March 20.
Other viewing opportunities in the area include great views from the local county roads.
 Meadow and cornfield Sandhill Crane photos taken on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 on Suburban Road and Platte Valley Road between Hershey and North Platte.


North Platte may not have the commercial viewing opportunities such as the Rowe Sanctuary or the Crane Trust (both organizations do an excellent job of telling the Crane story and preserving the Platte River habitat), but we do have far fewer visitors putting pressure on the Cranes, and excellent free viewing sites.

You'll also find large numbers of Sandhill Cranes at North Platte's Golden Spike Tower and Visitors Center and the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.

It only happens once a year, and then for only a few short weeks. Don't miss your chance to experience the Sandhill Crane migration!

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