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.

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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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Viewing 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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Self Guided Tours

Use our Crane Watch Guide Map to help you navigate to various crane viewing locations to create your own crane viewing adventure. Pick from one of our suggested itineraries or create your own.

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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. Visitor Center is currently closed but trails are open.

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Guided Tours

Registration for all crane-viewing tours will be delayed until at least February 17, 2021.

When it comes to crane viewing you reserve 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 watch from a discovery station strategically placed along the Platte River to provide excellent views of Sandhill Cranes on their river roost.  Tours are held at sunrise and sunset from March 6 – April 11. Each tour lasts approximately two hours and is led by trained guides.

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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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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.

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

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

I missed seeing the cranes this year in Bosque. I chose to go to Minnesota’s sax-zim bog this year for owls. Maybe I will get to Kearney, NE for the spring migration.
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. ⁠
📷: Rick Derevan(rickderevan)/Audubon Photography Awards⁠
I know… it’s been a long while! I feel like I’ve barely been home. But I have. I’ve been working hard on some new things I’m excited to share with you soon! I’ve also been out adventuring, trying to fill my creative cup. I went “up north” to checkout the #sandhillcranemigration and that was a really cool experience. I have a pair of nesting cranes nearby, as well as a small group that regularly flies over my property. But to see (and hear!!) the cranes in much larger groups was something else. Have you seen Sandhill cranes in person? 📷 helengrosephotography
Sandhill Crane flyby
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 #bestofthegreatlakesstate
Sandhill cranes
#sandhillcrane #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranehunting #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration #bird #wildlife #birds #hunting #nature #wildlifephotography #cranehunting #birdsofinstagram #waterfowlhunting #birdphotography #waterfowl #crane #naturephotography #cranes #ribeyeofthesky #birdwatching #birding #naturelover #outdoors #tennesseehunting #bestbirdshots #wild #tennessee #tnwildlife #hiking
After a couple days of rain I’m not sure who was more excited for the sun and Warner temps, the cranes or me the guy to had an overnight photo blind in the blustery rain and sleet. Hopefully next year I’ll get luckier with the weather.
#sandhillcrane #sandhillcranes #sandhillcranesofinstagram #sandhillcranemigration #visitkearney #lainnicholsonaudoboncenter #rowesanctuary #visitnebraska #nebraskawildlife #bird #birdsofinstagram #birdphotography #birdphoto #wildlifeonearth #wildlifeprotection #wildlifeshots #wildlifephotographer #kearneynebraska
Found this cute couple in Genoa City, WI this evening.
Sandhill cranes are likely the most ancient surviving bird species on Earth. The flocks that are currently migrating through the San Luis Valley are part of the Rocky Mountain population of cranes, one of five populations of the species within North America that have their own migration route and breeding/nesting regions. Click the link in our bio to learn how we’re working with ranchlands to conserve this critical wildlife habitat for people and nature. #CreatureFeature
📷: mdelormephoto