Sandhill Cranes

Home of the Sandhill Crane Migration

Get stuck in Grand Island traffic. Hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes create an aerial traffic jam every spring in Grand Island.

Each spring more than 80% (500,000+) of the world's population of Sandhill Cranes converge on a critical sliver of threatened habitat on the Platte River. Millions of migrating ducks and geese arrive with them. 

National Geographic named this annual migration event as one of North America’s two greatest natural wildlife phenomena, the other being Alaska’s Caribou migration. In 2014, the Crane Trust documented that a Platte River sandbar on their property serves as the largest crane roost in the world during the sandhill cranes' spring migration. This one-of-a-kind experience draws beginning birders to scientists from across the country and across the globe.

The month of March is the best time to see the largest numbers of birds, although the peak of the crane migration occurs during the second half of the month. Towards the end of March, you might also catch a glimpse of endangered Whooping Cranes or venture into the Sandhills to watch the colorful mating rituals of the Prairie Chickens.

Watch a video about the cranes

See the Cranes

Guided tours are available but not necessary to see the sandhill cranes. A public viewing deck is located on the river a short drive south of the nature center, and gravel turn-offs offer opportunities to view the cranes in cornfields as they feed midday. A map of viewing sites is included in the brochure download.

The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center is your headquarters for the spring migration of the sandhill cranes. Guided viewing blind tours through the nature center are designed to get you as close to the cranes as possible without disturbing them. In 2014, trust scientists documented the largest crane roost in the world directly in front of one of their public viewing blinds. Following a brief orientation at the nature center, you’ll head to the blinds to observe the cranes for approximately two hours. After driving your own vehicles to a staging area, a short hike (half a mile or less) over moderately rough terrain will take you to the viewing blinds. Blind participants come and go as a group so as to minimize disturbance and are offered to people age 12 and up, both morning and evening, corresponding to when the birds leave and enter the river.

A few blinds are reserved for overnight viewing if you want to extend the adventure. The viewing blinds are enclosed, unheated structures along the main channel of the Platte River. VIP experiences are also available with lodging provided by the Crane Trust in newly constructed cabins.

A footbridge is located 1/3rd of a mile from the nature center via a paved path. Handicapped-accessible footbridge tours, offered weekend evenings, overlook a smaller channel of the Platte River about a 1/3 mile from the nature center.

Download the brochure