Sandhill cranes make annual great flight over Nebraska

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By Tiago Zenero, NewsNetNebraska

During the journey, there is only one place where Sandhill Cranes stop by to get some fat reserves on their migration from the southern USA towards north: Nebraska.

“There is nowhere else in the world where you can see so many cranes as you can see here in Nebraska,” said Mary Harner, researcher at the Crane Trust and affiliated with the University of Nebraka-Kearney Department of Biology.

The Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska’s Sandhills, is the most important stopover area for the birds, with up to 450,000 of them migrating through annually.

Sandhill Cranes generally migrate in small groups of three or four, but they can also fly in big groups.

“They are typically flying in family groups, when you see three birds they are the parents and their juvenile from last summer,” Harner said. “Sometimes they also travel with extendedly family groups or other social groups.”

The juvenile birds can be differentiated from their parents by the color of their feathers.

“The younger birds have more brown through their feathers,” Harner said.

In the wild, those young birds can live more than 20 years, and in captivity they live more than 30.

Birds that are in the wild make the migration in every single year.

“They make this journey year after year, some of them travel 5,000 or more miles each migration,” Harner said.

The time they take migrating vary depending on the destination. Some of them fly from the southern US to Canada and some go even farther, to Siberia. Generally they take about a few weeks on the trip, according to Harner.

“I like to think about how much of the earth these birds fly over. It is pretty phenomenal all the habitats which they cross,” she said.

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