Experiencing the Great Sandhill Crane migration at Kearney, Nebraska’s Audubon Sanctuary

Mar 2, 2017

Thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes awake to a day of foraging in the Platte River Valley en route to a summer in Canada and the Arctic
Credit Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent, Tom Wilmer reports from Gibbon, Nebraska where he visits with Bill Taddicken, Director of the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center Rowe Sanctuary on the outskirts of Kearney, Nebraska.

Every year, like clockwork, from late February through early April, more 500,000 Sandhill Cranes descend on Nebraska’s Platte River Valley during their annual northbound migration to Canada and the Arctic tundra.

Sunrise and Cranes on the Platte River near Kearney Nebraska
Credit Thomas Wilmer

The Crane is one of the world’s oldest and most revered bird species. Nine million-year-old crane fossils have been recorded in Nebraska. Today, the Great Platte River Valley remains as a vital resting and refueling spot.

Sandhill Cranes returning to the Platte River at the end of a day of foraging
Credit Thomas Wilmer

Cranes spend their days gorging on leftover corn in the surrounding fields, and then retreat to the Platte River’s protected sandbars around sunset. 

Sandhill Cranes soaring above Kearney Nebraska
Credit Thomas Wilmer

The Crane is an amazing avian—they love to catch the thermals, and with a good tailwind can cruise up to 35 miles an hour, traveling sometimes as far as 500 miles in a single day.

Sandhill Cranes come in for a landing on the Platte River near Kearny Nebraska
Credit Thomas Wilmer

Cranes have been spotted sailing on thermals in excess of 25,000 feet above sea level. The total population of Lesser and Greater Cranes and their sub-species ranges between 600,000 and 800,000.

Correspondent Tom Wilmer (Left) with Bill Taddicken, Director of the Iain Nicholson Center at Rowe Sanctuary
Credit Mary Jane Skala

The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center Rowe Sanctuary was the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Phoenix Award presented by the Society of American Travel Writers

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