I made a visit to the Nebraska State Museum of Natural History to look at the remains of ancient cranes found in Nebraska. The fossil record for avian species is sketchy at best, due to the hollow bone structure of birds, they don't preserve very well. We do however, have some excellent examples thought to be from the Miocene epic at the Ashfall Fossil Bed State Historical Site.
Most of the Museum's collection is not at "Elephant Hall" located in the center of UNL's city campus, most of the collection is housed on the 4th floor of Nebraska Hall. I was led to a room filled with antiquities such as mammoth skulls and fossilized bones of all description. Very interesting place for sure.
Dr. George Corner from the Museum pulled out two examples of complete skeletal remains of the crowned crane (gruidae: balearica) that were exhumed from the Ashfall site. Alan Feduccia and Michael Voorhies wrote a paper about these remains. Feduccia and Voorhies believe that some 10 million years ago a volcano 100 times greater than Mt. St. Helens erupted in the area of New Mexico, covering Nebraska in ash of up to 3 meters.
The cranes that were found at the site were a smaller relative of the modern crowned crane that is found in Africa in modern times. The Nebraska bird is smaller than the African species.
We will continue to work with the museum to provide more information and interperative displays in the future.