Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2003


Published in Great Plains Research 13 (Fall 2003): 199-216. Copyright © 2003 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


During spring migration, sandhill cranes (Crus Canadensis) rely on the central Platte River valley in Nebraska as a staging area to replenish depleted energy and nutrient reserves. From mid-February to mid-April 1998-2001, we conducted ground and aerial surveys of sandhill cranes in the central Platte River valley. Peak numbers of sandhill cranes (121,000-285,000 cranes) detected during ground surveys occurred in mid-March (1998, 2001) or early March (1999, 2000). From 42% to 55% of the cranes occurred in cornfields, 26%-38% in lowland grassland, 7%-13% in alfalfa, and 2%-12% in other habitats (soybean, winter wheat, shrub-grassland, upland grassland). In general, sandhill cranes preferred channel widths> 150 m and avoided channel widths (P < 0.001) than channel widths at unused sites (229 m ± 2.9 S.E. vs. 83 m ± 2.1 S.E.). Our research suggests future management of sandhill cranes in central Nebraska should include protecting and restoring critical habitats, maintaining appropriate stream flows, and providing adequate river channel widths and food resources.