We have a cheer for the Nebraska Tourism Office’s first campaign of 2019, which promotes the hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate to the Platte River Valley.

According to the most recent national survey, more than 86 million people 16 years old and older participated in wildlife watching in the United States in 2016, and we think promoting ways for them to experience wildlife is a win-win for them and wildlife.

The print and television ads began running this week. The ads note that while many people view Nebraska as a place to fly over and not a place to visit, more than half a million cranes come to the state every March.

Smithsonian Magazine called the crane migration one of the world’s great wildlife spectacles, on a par with the epic migrations of the wildebeest and the caribou. Cranes have been around since the Eocene, which ended 34 million years ago. They are among the world’s oldest living birds and one of the planet’s most successful life-forms, having outlasted millions of species (99 percent of species that ever existed are now extinct). The particularly successful sandhill crane of North America has not changed appreciably in ten million years.

Every year 400,000 to 600,000 sandhill cranes—80 percent of all the cranes on the planet—congregate along an 80-mile stretch of the central Platte River in Nebraska, to fatten up on waste grain in the empty cornfields in preparation for the journey to their Arctic and subarctic nesting grounds, according to Smithsonian. It takes place in three waves of four to five weeks each, beginning in mid-February and ending in mid-April, during which birds that arrive emaciated from wintering grounds in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Chihuahua, Mexico, gain 20 percent of their body weight.

Stay tuned for our summer edition of Action Line where we will highlight other wildlife extravaganzas to behold in the United States.