SANDHILL CRANE MIGRATION, PLATTE RIVER, NEBRASKA

These were taken in March 2008 when I volunteered at Rowe Audubon Sanctuary in Gibbon, NE.  One of the perks of being a volunteer was a chance in the mornings and evenings to go alone to the viewing blinds for a real show!

The Lesser Sandhill Cranes migrate in an hour glass pattern, from Siberia and Alaska/Canada down to the southeast and southwest.  They are hunted almost everywhere except Nebraska (some say not in New Mexico, but I haven’t confirmed that).  In the spring migration, about 80% of the world’s population of Sandhills is on the Platte, over a 50-80 km stretch.  They spend their days in the fields picking over waste corn and adding about 15% to their body weight in 2 weeks prior to finishing migration.  They spend the nights in the Platte, where the braided river makes it very difficult for coyotes and other predators to approach.  They “dance” and do other antics like a big singles bar.  They come in at night and go out in the morning from singles or pairs to literally thousands.   As a rough estimate one night, I counted 10,000 in a half hour, coming from one direction.

There are two great North American migrations, and this is one of them.   The Porcupine Caribou migration from Canada to Alaska’s North Slope is another.  These are worth seeing!

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