LINCOLN, Neb. – Numbers of sandhill cranes on the Central Platte River during the spring migration typically peak in the third week of March. That seems to be changing.
Close to 195,000 cranes are on the Central Platte as of Feb. 27, according to an aerial survey by the Crane Trust. That figure was around 66,000 just a week ago. Numbers should continue to build with continuing mild weather and viewing should be favorable going forward.
The aerial survey detected 213,000 sandhill cranes on the Central Platte during the same time a year ago, but in previous years, the number of cranes ranged from about 5,000 to 60,000 in late February. Last year, according to Crane Trust counts, the crane migration peaked at 413,000 birds on March 14, approximately a week to two weeks ahead of historically recorded peak migration numbers (generally between March 21 and March 28) observed in the Crane Trust Database (2002-2017).
“This year remains just behind the pace of last year, which was the earliest migration in our database in terms of large numbers of roosting sandhill cranes along the Platte River in February,” said Andrew Caven, lead biologist at the Crane Trust. “The early warm weather has continued to coincide with the early arrival of large numbers of sandhill cranes.”
The Crane Trust provides publically available weekly updates regarding the sandhill crane migration at https://cranetrust.org/.
Among the sandhill crane viewing sites along the river is Fort Kearny State Recreation Area near Kearney.
Wildlife watchers also currently have an opportunity to observe bald eagles and waterfowl along the Platte.