In the last few weeks the cranes have been feeding on the food sources that they find here in the Plattental. Sandhill cranes are opportunistic feeders. They eat plants, leftover grains, tubers, berries, snails, earthworms and occasionally mice, lizards or snakes. They still have a long way to go to fly to their nesting sites in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, which are approximately 1,000 to 5,000 miles away.
The fossil record shows that cranes have been coming here for millions of years. They’ve been coming to Nebraska a lot longer than the Platte River has been here. How can that be?
If you heard a lot of what is said and written about the cranes and their relationship with the Platte River, you would think that the cranes would go away if the river dried up. It is not quite like that. Our landscape here offers many wetlands and wet meadows that give the cranes the open spaces and food sources they need. This geographic feature has drawn the cranes here. By the way, scientists believe that sandhill cranes are one of the oldest species of birds that still exist.
Very often you see cranes dancing. For cranes, this is like dating and attracting a partner. The birds can perform extravagant dance behaviors, including bowing, jumping, running, stick or throwing grass, and flapping their wings. While dancing plays an important role in advertising, it is performed outside of the breeding season by individuals of all ages and is believed to aid motor development in younger birds and strengthen pair bonding in older birds.