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Sandhill crane named Nebraska's state migratory bird; annual migration draws international tourism

Governor: 'One of Nebraska’s most amazing natural spectacles'
Cranes Flight
Posted at 12:24 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 13:34:08-04

GIBBON, Neb. (KMTV) — On Wednesday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced from the Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon that the sandhill crane is officially proclaimed as Nebraska's state migratory bird.

The reasoning for the proclamation comes down to numbers. Up to one million sandhill cranes, or roughly 80% of the world's population, fly through the Platte River Valley from mid-March through late April. The natural spectacle attracts tens of thousands of human visitors who stimulate local economies.

The governor's proclamation cites a University of Nebraska-Kearney study that recorded 46,500 human visitors who descended on various central Nebraska sites to view the hundreds of thousands of cranes, 93% of whom were not local to the area. This resulted in $14.3 million of economic impact.

"This designation recognizes the Sandhill cranes’ migration as one of Nebraska’s most amazing natural spectacles," quoted Ricketts in a press release. "It also recognizes the benefit of the cranes to the State’s tourism industry, which warmly welcomes out-of-state birdwatchers each year to marvel at their migration.”

The proclamation does not appear to have any impact beyond symbolic designation. However, it allowed for the recognition of the wetland habitat of the Platte River for the migratory birds.

"Every March, when the evening skies fill with soaring cranes and the rivers echo with their loud, rattling call, it reminds us that we are not the only ones that need this river," said Executive Director of Audubon Nebraska Kristal Stoner. "Keeping the river healthy requires active management because what is good for birds is good for people. Rowe Sanctuary has been here for nearly 50 years working to make sure the river is open and flowing, and providing thousands of people the opportunity to see cranes on the river.”

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