Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professors Felipe Chavez-Ramirez & Andrew J. Tyre. Lincoln, Nebraska: November 2011

Copyright 2011 Todd Joseph Buckley


The Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) in Nebraska is an important spring stopover area for the midcontinent population of sandhill cranes. Alterations to crop rotation and loss habitat in the CPRV pose a risk to the population. Personnel drove designated routes in the CPRV from 2003–2010 to record the presence of cranes in agricultural fields and estimate abundance. I developed and evaluated models to predict habitat use and flock sizes. Alfalfa was predicted to receive the highest use followed by corn, soybeans, winter wheat, grassland, and shrubland. Use of all habitats and flock size increased as field area increased. Flock size increased as distance from development increased in all habitats. The distance traveled from roosting habitat on the Platte River to agricultural fields increased as the stopover period progressed. My results suggest diverse crop rotations in large fields far from development but near roosting habitat are the most beneficial habitat conditions. However, variation in the distance travelled to fields suggests roosting habitat might be limiting the overall spatial distribution. Understanding the use of the Platte River is critical for future management decisions of roosting habitat. Personnel conducted aerial surveys in the CPRV from 2004–2010 to determine the presence of cranes and estimate roost sizes. I developed and evaluated models to predict roosting habitat use and roost sizes. Segments of the Platte River not adjacent to development, wider than 150 meters, and free of tall woody vegetation on river banks received the highest use and contained the largest roosts.

Advisors: Felipe Chavez-Ramirez & Andrew J. Tyre