The principal spring staging areas of the midcontinent population of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) are along the Platte and North Platte rivers in south-central Nebraska. Most of these lands are privately owned and managed for corn and cattle production. Diurnal habitat use by radio-tagged cranes was primarily in cropland (55%), native grassland (28%), and tame hayland (15%). Ninety-nine percent of the cropland use was in cornfields; 55% as grazed stubble, 36% as disced, cultivated, and plowed stubble, 7% as ungrazed stubble, and 1% unclassified. Grazed pastures accounted for 93% of the grassland locations and mowed alfalfa fields 77% of the tame hayland locations. Other habitats were seldom used. Time budget analyses indicated that cranes, while in croplands, grasslands, and haylands, spent 35, 36, and 50% of the time foraging, respectively. Cranes roosted in the shallows and on nearby sandbars of about 111 km of river channel. Cranes usually roosted where the channel was at least 150 m wide and avoided stretches narrower than 50 m. Height of woody vegetation along shorelines and on islands influenced where cranes roosted when unobstructed channel width was less than 150 m; bridges or roads adjacent to the channel also reduced use by about half. Management recommendations are made for maintaining suitable habitat for sandhill cranes on their staging areas in Nebraska.
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Habitat use by migrant sandhill cranes in Nebraska