Sandhill Cranes fly over North Platte

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb.-- Thousands of Sandhill Cranes are descending on North Platte. The cranes stop here every year on their way to their breeding grounds.

"There's a lot of them in the area right now," said Julie Geiser, a Public Information Officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. "We will be getting more in the next week or so."

The cranes' journey begins in the southwestern part of the United States. In states like Texas and New Mexico. Their migration ends when they reach their breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada. Some of them travel as far north as Siberia.

The cranes return to North Platte every year for food.

"They utilize every agriculture field that has waste grains that are disposed of on the ground," Geiser explained. "Plus, they are going to be using their beaks to dig up any kind of vegetation."

According to National Geographic, the cranes weigh between six and half and 14 pounds. On average they gain one pound, roughly 10 percent of their body weight, during their stay in the Midwest because they eat a lot of food Geiser said. That additional bulk gives them the strength and energy they need to make it to their breeding grounds.

"The body weight they are putting on now will get them to their breeding areas," Geiser said. "It will give them the extra energy they need because when they are flying this (far) of a distance, they're going to be burning a lot of their body weight off."

Geiser added that the stop in North Platte also ensures that the Sandhill Cranes will have a successful breeding season.

"The stop here aids in egg development," Geiser said. "It really does help when they get up to their breeding grounds ."

She said the Buffalo Bill Ranch is a great viewing area.