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Top 7 Tips for Sandhill Crane Migration Travelers


If you are heading to see the Sandhill Crane Migration in Nebraska, you are in for a treat.  National Geographic has called it “One of the greatest migrations in the world”….and it’s right here in Nebraska!!!  It was one of our top Buckelist Items To Do in Nebraska and it did not disappoint!

where to see the sandhill cranes in Nebraska
Photo Courtesy Nebraska Tourism

If you are looking to plan a trip to see the Sandhill cranes in Nebraska, you first need to check out our complete guide.  You’ll find when and where go to exactly, where to stay, what you can see and SO much more. Go read it now! 

And if you’ll be spending the night in Kearney, here is a fantastic (and cheap!) hotel option.  It’s where we stayed and for the price and quality, would recommend it to others. (You can even get up to $20 off your first booking at booking.com w/ this coupon)

And now that you have your whole trip planned, here are a few more of our top tips for when you see the Sandhill Cranes to get the most of your Nebraska trip.


1) Don’t Wear Bright Colors

As the clearly knowledgeable birders next to us tried to hide their disdain, they told my husband that in the future, he shouldn’t wear his bright red Husker sweatshirt, as the cranes are extremely sensitive to bright colors.  Instead, they said to dress as dark as possible.  Woops.

2) Bring an Extra Camera Battery Pack

The extreme cold temperatures tend to suck up your battery life faster than you downing that hot coffee in the frigid weather.  Bring an extra backup battery pack so that you won’t miss the grand finale…like we did! 🙁

3) Know Some Basic Photography

sandhill cranes nebraska provide phenomenal wildlife photography!

If you are using a fancy schmansy camera (but are guilty, like me, of typically just using the “Auto” setting, do yourself a favor and do a quick look up of a few techniques before hand. Things like ISO, shutter speed and aperture are really important in the low lights of dawn and dusk.  If you are looking for a great travel camera, here are some phenomenal options.

Get a tripod! I promise, your pictures will thank you!  Here is the tripod we use.  And here are other great tripods for under $100 great tripods for under $100

4) Layer It Up- and then add more!

Layer your clothing for the sandhill cranes nebraska spring migration

Whether you are a native Nebraskan and know what kind of temperatures our winter and spring can bring or if you are coming in from out of town, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in packing more layers than what you think is necessary.

Remember, you’ll be out at dawn and dusk, two of the coldest times of day.  Don’t be like the silly Louisianan’s who thought that one layer was enough.  In fact, I recommend AT LEAST 3 layers (I actually did 4!!!) because you can always unpeel a layer if your too warm, but you can’t just magically heat up on your own.

5) If you MUST Choose One: Dawn

Ok, so I guess this one is more subjective, but several others agree with this sentiment.  While I actually recommend staying the night and seeing the cranes come in at dusk and leave at dawn, the dawn show is simply spectacular.

At night, the cranes trickle in.  But in the morning, it’s as if the Crane Alarm Clock sounds and they all flutter away at once.  BREATHTAKING doesn’t even capture it. You’ll get a real picture of just how many sandhill cranes migrate through Nebraska (hint: it’s in the HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS!!!)

6) Take the Back Roads

Particularly, take the back roads in between the Crane Trust Visitor Center and the Rowe Sanctuary (stop for a map, they’ll help guide you).

During the day, you’ll see the cranes in Nebraska in the cornfields filling up.  The back-roads not only give you a peaceful break from the I-80 interstate but gives you a fantastic chance to see the cranes up close and personal.


7) Know Some Crane Facts

Do a quick google search of crane facts, it makes it much more enjoyable (ie: why do they roost in the Platte river, where are they going, why do the Sandhill cranes come to Nebraska, etc)


Have you seen the amazing Sandhill Cranes Nebraska migration?  What other tips would you give to fellow travelers?



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