Of the 15 species of cranes worldwide, two occur in North America. The endangered whooping crane is among the most widely recognized and admired species of birds in North America, due in part to its striking plumage, large size, and widely publicized turnaround from the brink of extinction. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population, the only wild and self-sustaining flock in existence, is often heralded as a major conservation success story having grown from a low of <20 birds in the early 1940s to >300 cranes currently.
The sandhill crane, unlike its endangered larger cousin, is widely distributed across North America. The midcontinent population is best known for the unique annual spectacle of about a half million cranes gathering in the Central Platte River Valley of south-central Nebraska in early spring to rest and store fat in preparation for migration and reproduction. This event attracts tens of thousands of eco-tourists, providing significant economic benefits to the region. The midcontinent population also is recognized by being the only population of cranes widely hunted.
Crane research at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center has occurred for decades, with comprehensive studies on both sandhill and whooping cranes. Current research projects support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation partners in their efforts to manage these migratory species and the habitats that they depend on throughout the year.
- Ecology, population dynamics, and management of the midcontinent sandhill crane population
- Historic distributions and habitats of the Whooping crane, 1722-1941
- Migration and winter ecology of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population of whooping cranes
- Nocturnal roosting behavior of sandhill cranes on the Central Platte River, Nebraska