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Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Experience One of the Earth’s Greatest Migrations

Every year from late February to early April, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate on the Platte River valley in order to ‘fuel up’ before resuming their northward migration.

Start planning your trip today!

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Guided Tours

When it comes to crane viewing you have some options a guided tour or watching from one of the public viewing locations in the area. We highly recommend a guided tour at Rowe Sanctuary There you will be watching from a discovery station strategically placed along the Platte River to provide excellent views of the Sandhill Cranes while they are on their river roost.  Tours last approximately two hours and are led by trained guides. This option will get you closer to the cranes and out of the elements. Rowe Sanctuary offers multiple options for guided crane viewing experiences.

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Rowe Sanctuary

Located just 20 minutes from Kearney, the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary lies right in the heart of a critical spring staging area for migrating Sandhill Cranes. Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary is a non-profit organization set up to conserve the Platte River ecosystems for sandhill cranes and other wildlife through conservation and education. You will need reservations to participate in one of their guided tours but the visitor center is open daily during crane season for indoor viewing, family viewing and a fantastic gift shop.

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Public Viewing

The Kearney area has multiple options for public viewing, designated areas are provided for different times of the day. Pull-offs offer opportunities for day-time viewing while cranes are as in the fields, while the Plautz Viewing Platform and Fort Kearny Bridge, spanning the Platte River, offer perfect sunrise and sunset viewing.

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The Platte River Valley

The Platte River Valley is the most important stopover on this migration. The river provides the perfect spot to rest, and the nearby farmlands and wet meadows offer an abundance of food. Without the energy gained along the Platte, cranes might arrive at their breeding grounds in a weakened condition — where food may be limited until the spring growing season begins.

The Platte River region has a variety of habitats that support cranes. The most important is the Platte River itself. The river is very shallow and sandbars dot the channels. It is here the cranes rest at night, gaining protection from predators like coyotes.

Q&A

When is the best time to come? What should I pack? Where should I go to view the cranes? We want you to have a memorable and educational experience, so we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you get started!

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Etiquette

Not only is your crane experience our top priority, but we also want everyone else to enjoy theirs as well. Make sure to read through more about Crane Viewing Etiquette guidelines for your safety, the safety of others, and the safety of the birds. Feel free to call us at 308-237-3178 for any additional questions. We would love to help you!

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Fast Facts

The spring migration population of sandhill cranes in the Central Nebraska Flyway is estimated at 650,000.

Height — 3 to 4 feet
Wingspan — 6 feet
Weight — 8 to 12 pounds
Color — Gray
Migration — 170 to 450 miles/day
Flight Speed — 38 mph
Mating — Begins at age 3 to 4
Eggs — 2 per year

Crane Related Events

When crane season arrives, it brings lots of excitement to our community, and a variety of events to go with. Whatever your sparks your interest, we’ve got you covered. From crane themed art shows, to the Audubon Nebraska’s Crane Festival, and even photography classes and family-focused crane nights, try one or try them all.

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Other Birding Guides

Each spring, something magical happens in the heart of the Great Plains. More than 80 percent of the world’s population of sandhill cranes converge on Nebraska’s Platte River valley. Along with the cranes, come millions of migrating ducks and geese in the neighboring rainwater basins. Learn more about other birdwatching opppunititees in the area.

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Crane Watch Brochure

Request your FREE Crane Watch Brochure today and start planning your visit!

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Experience the sights and sounds of the Sandhill Cranes

We can tell you how spectacular the Sandhill Cranes are all day long, but to remain unbiased, hear from people who have experienced the migration for themselves.

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Visitors Guide

Request your FREE Visitors Brochure today and start planning your visit!

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The Sandhill Crane Migration Through Your Eyes

Sandhill Cranes form large flocks while migrating—sometimes up to a quarter of a million birds gather at certain stopover points. While searching for them during migration, listen for their loud rattling call, often heard from a distance. ⁠
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📷: Rick Derevan(rickderevan)/Audubon Photography Awards⁠
Pair of sandhill cranes hovering low just as the sun rose above the horizon. cosumnesriverpreserve 
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#nikon #nikoncamera #nikond7500 #nikon7500 #nikond7500photography #sigma #sigmalens #sigma150600 #sigma150600mm #wildlifephotography #wildlife #birdingphotography #birding #amateurphotographer #amateurphotography #sacramentophotographer #sacramentocounty #galtca #galt #cosumnesriverpreserve #naturepreserve #photography #nature #naturephotography #sandhillcrane #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration
Sandhill crane take off #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration #sandhillcranephotography #sandhillcranesinflight #crane #bestbirdpics #birdsinflightphotography #birdsinflightphotos
Found this cute couple in Genoa City, WI this evening.
Throughout #EarthMonth, we want to stay connected and help bring nature to you. Celebrate by learning more about the incredible Sandhill crane migration happening in Colorado right now! #CreatureFeature
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🎥: laurynwachs
Sandhill Crane.  It’s no secret to those that know me.  I’m a craniac.  Even though I wasn’t able to travel to see their great migration in Nebraska this spring, I’ve been able to spot some of the many breeding pairs of the wonderfully prehistoric-looking Sandhill cranes at the nearby wildlife refuge. Here their usually gray feathers take on a rust color because they preen in the local iron rich mud.  They are masters at keeping their distance from humans with cameras, although these are much less skittish than the cranes in the open fields of Nebraska. It’s estimated that there are up to 50 breeding pairs of Sandhill cranes here and I’m excited for their colts to arrive.
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#sandhillcrane #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sherburnenationalwildliferefuge #cranelife #birdsofminnesota #best_bird_shots #best_birds_of_world #bird_freaks #birdsofinstagram #birdphotography #bird_watchers_daily #bird_perfection #bird_captures #nuts_about_birds #1birdshot2k #sandhillcranemigration #craniac #bird_nature #birdnerd #birdnerds #bird_extreme #bestshotz_birds #bestbirdsoftheworld #best_birds_of_ig #
Most of us in the Chicago area live under the sandhill crane migration route. It is a true wonder to be working in the yard with headphones on and hearing the call of the cranes. Far up in the sky are dozens of cranes moving south and making their ancient call. The call means, I need to head to Jasper-Pulaski preserve in Indiana at dawn to see thousands of cranes on their layover on their way to Florida.
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#sandhillcrane #cranes #fallmigration #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration #jasperpulaski  #migratorybirds #migration #publiclands #indiana_explored #indianasveryown  #indianaaudubon #fallvibes #birdsmatter #naturalindiana #igersindiana #visitindiana
#sandhillcranes #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration #maxwellnationalwildliferefuge #wildlifephotography #nationalwildliferefuge #birdphotography
Sandhill Crane taken November 20, 2020 in Jackson, Michigan. #sandhillcrane #sandhillcranesofinstagram #your_best_birds #puremichigan #best_birds_of_world #best_birds_of_ig #best_bird_shots #feather_perfection #natgeo #nature #naturephotography #birdsofinstagram #birds #birdphotography #sandhillcranemigration #jacksonmichigan
These elegant creatures stand 4 feet tall and are seen daily walking throughout our neighborhood.  About 5,000 Sandhill Cranes make Florida their permanent home, while another 25,000 “snowbirds” visit each winter. These stately birds can live for 20 years or more. #sandhillcranes #retirementtravelers #floridabirds
#waterbirdwednesday
Have you been to Hiwassee Refuge to see the Cranes?  This state-managed wildlife refuge near Chattanooga, TN has the largest winter flock of Sandhill Cranes in the southeast United States outside of Florida.  It is a great place to see Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl and sometimes whooping cranes!  In 2012 there was even a hooded crane!

Join Kevin birdingburke this February for a weekend getaway to this great birding spot as well as the cool city of Chattanooga!
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#venturesbirdingtours #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranemigration #hiwasseewildliferefuge #hiwasseerefuge #tennesseewildlife #tennesseebirds #tnbirds #winterbirding #birdingtours #birdwatchersdaily #birdoftheday #bird_freaks #birdnerd #birder #birdwatching #birds_nature #birdingphotography #birdingtrip #visitchattanooga