The sandhill crane migration – a phenomenon to experience

by Annette Geiselman, Executive Director, Discovery Science Center

Spring is the perfect time to get away and commune with nature. For the second spring break in a row, I traveled to Kearney, Nebraska and once again was stunned by the sandhill crane migration. There aren’t words to describe the connection to nature, and the connection to the ancient past, that this experience provides. For me, the chortling sound of the cranes is the characteristic that transports me back in time. It is truly indescribable. And the sheer incredible number of cranes that you hear and see is beyond quantification. The cranes migrate right off of I-80, and the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary will help even the most novice bird watcher have an extraordinary experience. At the sanctuary I learned that cranes have been in existence for 40 million years and are among the oldest living birds on the planet. The red color of the top of the head of the crane is not red feathers, but rather skin. The color changes from red to grayish depending on how excited or agitated the crane is. Even their descriptions are surprising — female adults are mares, male adults are roans, and baby cranes are colts. Millions of the birds, making up 80 percent of the world’s sandhill crane population, migrate through Nebraska each year. I met many people from around the United States who make this an annual pilgrimage, and I can see why. Here are a couple of links if you would like to learn more.

Rowe Audubon Sanctuary’s crane cam (through April 8th)

Nebraska Flyway (a really excellent website)

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