North American Crane Working Group


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Davis, Craig A. Nocturnal roost site selection and diurnal habitat use by sandhill cranes during spring in central Nebraska. In: Ellis, David H., ed., Proceedings of the Eighth North American Crane Workshop, 11–14 January 2000, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Seattle, Wash: North American Crane Working Group, 2001), pp. 48-56.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group (NACWG).


During spring 1998 and 1999, the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust conducted ground and aerial surveys of staging sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis; hereafter, cranes) to detennine roost site selection and habitat-use patterns along a l20-Ian stretch of the Platte River in south-central Nebraska. Cranes peaked at 232,023 during 22-28 March 1998 and 206,074 during 28 Februaty-6 March 1999 in the study area, a portion of the total crane staging area in the Platte River Valley. Diurnal observations showed that 48% of the cranes were in com fields, 34% in lowland grasslands, 13% in alfalfa fields, and 5% in other habitats (soybean, winter wheat, and upland grassland). In com fields, 38%, 36%, 13%, and 11% of the cranes were in ungrazed, grazed, tilled, and mowed stubble, respectively, while in lowland grasslands, 64%, 23%, and 11% were in grazed, hayed, and idled fields. Most cranes (84%) roosted in river sections where channel widths were >200 m. Cranes preferred river sections where channel widths were >250 min 1998 and >200 min 1999, and avoided sections :;;150 m wide. Channel widths used by roosting cranes averaged 277 m± 7.7 (SE) in 1998 and 237 m± 5.5 in 1999 and were wider (P < 0.001) than unused sections (1998: 84 m± 4.1; 1999: 88 m ± 4.4). In 1998 and 1999, 59% and 66% of roost sites, respectively, were in river sections where vegetation had been mechanically cleared. Clearing of channel vegetation appeared to enhance roost sites for cranes.