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Sandhill Crane Migration

Watch a stunning natural phenomenon when over 600,000 sandhill cranes land in Nebraska


Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Only in Nebraska, you can see one of nature's greatest shows. More than half of all the world's crane population gathers along the central Platte River to rest and get ready for the annual journey to their northern nesting grounds. An 80-mi (128-km) stretch of the Platte River hosts migrating cranes twice a year. The spring migration is generally more impressive to witness, while in the fall, cranes can only be seen briefly since they spend less time on stopovers. Cranes arrive in Nebraska starting from late February, and their peak numbers can be seen throughout March. By early April they head north to Alaska and Canada. Fall migration usually occurs between late October and late November when cranes head to their wintering grounds in Texas, Florida, and Mexico.

To see the largest number of cranes, visit Kearney, Nebraska, which is often called the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World. Grand Island and North Platte are also known to have impressive crane congregations. Bird-watching tours are available at all locations. The best way to experience the migration is to reserve a blind and get close to them on the sunrise. Rowe Sanctuary provides blinds to see cranes up close without disturbing them and take quality photos of the beautiful birds. Kearney also hosts the annual Audubon Nebraska’s Crane Festival to mark the migration season every March. It's a great occasion to learn about cranes, their habits, habitats, and conservation efforts.

One of the most amazing things that you can witness in Nebraska is the so-called crane dance when they bow to each other, flap their wings, and jump to attract the opposite sex. Sandhill cranes pair during their spring migration, and they stay with one partner for life. A peculiar call that sounds like "Karroo" is also associated with the cranes' mating rituals.

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