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Sandhill Crane Migration in Central Nebraska

Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo


Every spring in central Nebraska, USA, as the last snow melts and the region’s fertile farmland is newly revealed, the Platte River Valley plays host to a remarkable gathering. Hundreds of thousands of Sandhill cranes, tired and hungry, with yellow eyes and bright red foreheads, pause here on their way north to the Arctic. For three weeks, they rest and refuel - fattening themselves on last-year’s corn and sleeping in the shallow braids of the Platte River. At four feet (1.2 meters) tall, they are one of the largest birds in North America - and one of the most romanticized; bird watchers from across the country descend on this area to witness one of North America’s most dramatic migrations.


Just to the north lies the crane’s Nebraska namesake: the Sandhills, a rolling landscape of dunes and prairie grass. In January 2012, the Obama administration rejected the original route for the Keystone XL pipeline - the proposed 1,700 miles (2,736 kilometers) expansion of the Canadian/American oil pipeline - in part because it crossed through this environmentally sensitive area. Though the fate of the controversial pipeline is still up in the air, the fate of the cranes appears preserved.