South side of the Alda interchange (exit 305) on Interstate 80
Monday through Friday - 9 to 5
Saturdays - 10 to 4
Spring migration (March 1 to April 7th) - 8am to 6 pm
FREE (donations welcomed)
Crane Meadows grounds:
$3.50 (includes tax)
Photo by Al Perry
Information | Ecological Notes | Crane Lore
Daily Bridge & Blind Tours |
Crane Viewing Opportunities | FAQs
Information About Sandhill Cranes
- Sandhill cranes stand between
three and four feet tall, weigh five to eight pounds, and have
a wing span of six feet.
- During their "staging"
period on the Platte River, the crane increase their body weight
by as much as 25%. This prepares them for the long flight ahead,
reproduction, and possible food shortages upon their arrival
at the nesting sites due to frozen ground.
- Both sexes of adult cranes look
alike. The reddish-brown color that some exhibit is the result
of preening with beaks covered with iron-rich mud that stain
- Cranes mate for life and often
pair when they are three to six years old. Cranes do not compete
for the same mate and sometimes have a lengthy courtship. Cranes
eyes do not meet during courtship.
- A young sandhill crane is called
a colt. It grows at a rate of approximately an inch a day, reaching
full size in nine weeks. They are orange-brown in color for most
of their first year, lack a red crown, and make a whistling call.
- Sandhill cranes can live to
the age of 25 years in the wild and longer in captivity. One
crane at the Washington Zoo lived to be 55 years old!
- Cranes utilize an elongated
windpipe to produce "Crane Music." Their harmonious
"bugling" and "trumpeting" sounds are actually
distinctive calls to communicate with each other.
- Cranes have much better hearing
and sight capabilities than humans.
- There are 15 species of crane
currently found around the world, and an additional 36 extinct
species recorded by fossil remains.
- North America has only two native
species of crane, the sandhill and the federally endangered whooping
- Sandhill cranes have been hunted
in the U.S. since 1960, and are hunted in nine central flyway
states: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota,
Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nebraska does not
allow hunting of sandhill cranes. An estimated 20,000 cranes
are harvested each year by hunters in these states.
- The population of sandhill cranes
in the early 1960's was estimated at 200,000 to 340,000. Currently
the population is estimated at 600,000.
- At peak, half a million cranes
are packed into a 60 mile stretch along the Platte River known
as the "Big Bend" region.
- The Platte River Basin is the
only ecosystem along the crane migration route that meets all
of their requirements for roosting, resting, and restoring themselves.
- 80% of the total sandhill crane
population uses the Platte and North Platte Rivers during both
fall and spring migration.
- The future of the sandhill crane
depends on the preservation of their habitat along the Platte
- Cranes are the oldest living
bird species and have the longest successful tenure on earth,
about sixty million years. They are truly "emissaries from
a distant age."
- Sandhill cranes probably get their name
from the sandhills of Florida where they were first described by John
- Sandhill crane nick-names include
"preacher bird" and "shypoke."
- Cranes are considered the most
accomplished dancers in the animal kingdom.
Daily Bridge and Blind Tours
March3 - April 7, 2007 coinciding with the dates of highest Sandhill
Crane concentrations on the Platte.
From one hour before till one hour after sunset.
This is when the cranes are leaving and returning to
Blind tours - Children must be at least 12 years old.
Bridge tours - Children must be at least 12 years old.
take phone reservations with a credit card number (Visa and Mastercard).
A fee of $25.00/person plus tax is charged for each blind tour.
A fee of $10.00/person plus tax is charged for the bridge watch.
2007 CRANE VIEWING OPPORTUNITIES
CRANE BLIND TOURS
Crane viewing "Blind Tours" will
be offered March 3rd through April 7th at a fee of $25 per person (plus
tax). Our staff presents an introductory program about cranes
throughout the day.
WHEN TO MEET
Morning: 5:00a.m. CST (March 3-10)
6:00a.m. CDT (March 11- April 7)
Evening: 5:00p.m. CST (March 3-10)
6:00p.m. CDT (March 11-April 7)
*Note-Daylight savings time is earlier this year, so please pay special
attention to dates and times.
Call to reserve your spot on this popular crane
CRANE BRIDGE TOURS
An exclusive, guided crane viewing
opportunity using the private Nature
Center pedestrian bridge will be offered at sunset from March 3rd through
April 7th. This tour features the sights and sounds of the cranes as they
return to a secondary roost along the river. The number of participants
is limited to provide minimal disturbance to the cranes while maintaining
a premier viewing experience. A fee of $10.00/person (plus tax) will be
charged, reservations are encouraged.
A variety of programs about cranes will be presented for the public at the Nature Center during crane season. Check with the Center for topics and times, or click on "Calendar of Events."
CRANE DISPLAYS & NATURE TRAILS
Wildlife displays, including
a variety of exhibits on cranes, can be
viewed at Crane Meadows Visitor Center. Informative videos about cranes
and Platte River wildlife are shown continually during crane season. Staff
are on hand to answer crane questions and direct people to local crane
viewing hot spots.
CELEBRATE NEBRASKA! STORE
Don't miss our 2,500 square foot Nebraska products store. New this
- Snacks and food - from cinnamon pickles
to pickled asparagus,
bison jerky, prime rib, and Village Piemaker pies.
- Optics - Bushnell and Leupold
- Books - featuring bird and nature
field guides - and all things Nebraskan (poetry, history, and fiction)
- Nebraska art,
- Furniture and wood products
- Backyard bird supplies
- And all things "crane" (socks,
sculptures, photos, jewelry, cards and more).
HORNADY FAMILY ART GALLERY
Featuring artwork from area artists.
- Our crane tours last 3-4 hours, they require patience and extreme
quiet. You must be able to walk approximately 200 yards. We suggest
wearing your warmest clothes.
- Stop at the Nature Center for maps of self guided tours.
- Aerial sightseeing flights in a Cessna 172. Book an hour-long flight (3
seats). Call for pricing.
- As the sun sets, cranes float down from the sky like moths, and land
in the river in front of the blind. While there are no guarantees, our
locations have been excellent for viewing. The cranes come very close to
the blind. This tour can last up to 4 hours. Chemical restrooms located at
- Our bridge tours require an easy 1/3 mile walk (paved) to our
pedestrian bridge over the middle channel of the Platte. This tour is
wheel-chair accessible. The guide sets-up a spotting scope on the bridge.
Participants are out on an open air bridge. It can be cold - so please
dress warmly (socks, gloves and hats). Cranes may fly overhead as they
descend on their roosts on the river. Sometimes they land in the prairie
to the south before they move to the river. They may be close, or as far
away as a half mile away. There are benches on the bridge. Tour
participants can leave on their own at any time.
- You may observe other wildlife on the tours, such as coyotes, deer, and
other birds including bald eagles, hawks, owls, waterfowl and woodpeckers.
- Which motels and restaurants do you recommend?
There are a number of motels in Grand Island, Hastings and Wood River. We
recommend that you go to the local visitor bureau websites and take a
look..."www.visitgrandisland.com and "www.visithastingsnebraska.com.