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Crane Count Week 1 - 2/14/2024

On February 14th, 2024, we estimated 38,000 ± 6,800 Sandhill Cranes between Chapman and Overton, NE. This is the highest count on record during the first week of our aerial surveys! * 

Most of these cranes were located between Grand Island and Wood River, NE which is typical for early in the migration. Considering we had high numbers of fall migrators and “overwinter-ers” in this area this high count falls right in line with patterns we have seen in the past. Crane Trust research from 2019 suggests the probable cause of this year’s copious amount of early arrivals is the higher average winter temperatures. The winter of 2021-2022 was also a fairly mild winter and we had around 27,000 cranes on Valentine’s day that year. An average first week count is around 6,000-8,000 cranes. Years when we see larger numbers earlier in February often result in peak numbers of cranes in early/mid-March. However, daily/weekly weather patterns still play a huge role in number of new arrivals. For example, in 2022 we had an impressive first count but we did not see peak numbers until March 21st because of cold fronts that came through the region. Cranes use the weather to their advantage, often riding the wake of winter, leaving spring behind them.

We also estimated around 2,000 dark geese, 19 Trumpeter Swans, and 18 Bald Eagles. Our dark geese estimate was very low compared to past years. (Dark geese include Canada, Brant, and other goose species.) Snow geese were very abundant in the area, but we do not include them in our estimates. 

Next week looks fairly good for migration conditions, especially toward the end of the week with warmer temps and southerly winds in the forecast. Our next flight is scheduled for February 23rd. Expect Week 2 counts next weekend, but unexpected changes in the weather may cause it to be delayed.

Till next week,


* Each year in early February the Crane Trust begins its aerial surveys of Sandhill Cranes along 80-mile stretch of the Platte River, continuing a long-term monitoring project that began in 1998.

P.S. Book your crane viewing experience to see these beautiful birds for yourself! Visit our crane viewing webpage to book a blind tour or overnight experience. 

Photo caption: Thousands of cranes roosting in view of the Crane Trust blinds.