This Week's Cold Weather May Slow Down The Sandhill Crane Migration

Feb. 22, 2022, 4:14 p.m. ·

Sunset on Platte River. Cranes fly through the sky and flock to the water.
Warmer days with south winds are favorable migration conditions for cranes. (Photo by Don Brockmeier)

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The sandhill crane migration season has started, but does this week’s cold snap change that?

Over 27,000 cranes flocked to the Central Platte River Valley in Nebraska last week-- one of the highest week one records the Crane Trust in Wood River has surveyed in 20 years. Cody Wagner with the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon said drought conditions may have pushed the migration season a little early.

"When they’re down on their breeding grounds, if the resources are starting to dry out, if things are not doing quite as well for them, they might be more anxious to move up north here," Wagner said.

However, it all depends on the weather conditions. Cranes love flying on warmer days with the wind, so there are fewer birds on colder days with north winds, Wagner said.

"Even though we are a little bit ahead of what we would normally expect to be at this time of year, especially with this cold snap that we’re seeing the week of the 21st, it may change," he said. "We may slow down here with migration."

If that continues, Wagner said more cranes may come in the second or third week of March. This is the first year since 2019 the Rowe Sanctuary is able to hold tours for more than 10 people.