The migration of the sandhill cranes is a majestic annual event that occurs in early March in Colorado, sweeping north across the United States through Nebraska’s Sandhills along the Platte River, across the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, into Canada to nesting grounds in the far north. Some even cross the Bering Straits every spring and fall, en route to and from nesting grounds in Siberia.
The next three to four weeks is the best time to view the migrating sandhill and whooping cranes in Colorado, and their migration through the San Luis Valley is a popular nature attraction. Aside from take-offs and landings at the beginning or end of their days of travel, these high-fliers normally travel at altitudes of 6,000 to 7,000 ft.
The beauty of seeing hundreds of thousands of these graceful birds swooping in from the south, settling on the ponds on the migration path, feeding, and taking off is unforgettable. No matter where along the migration path you may be traveling, seeing them is a thrill.
While you may only be traveling to (finally) visit Grandma, these birds are long-haulers. Riding thermal air currents, they travel 25 to 30 miles per hour, and they often travel 200 to 300 miles per day. With a good tailwind, some have been tracked as traveling 500 miles in a single day.
While the sandhill cranes follow their migration route on their own schedule, the communities along the route normally set actual dates for their celebrations. This year, for instance, the official celebration of the crane migration on the popular Monte Vista NWR tour has had to be moved online due to COVID-19 restrictions.
What would normally be large, in-person gatherings has been shifted to an online festival. The online Monte Vista Crane Festival is set for 7:00 p.m. on March 12. More information about the festival is available here
I failed to include my city and state – Louisville, Kentucky
The second photo in the story is a Great Blue Heron, not a Sandhill Crane. Many mistake the heron for cranes.
Thank you for your sharp eyes, Mary. It was misidentified in the photo album from which it was pulled. We stand corrected. And our intrepid photojournalist has been in the San Luis Valley and has some pictures of sandhil cranes to upload into this story, so we’ll be replacing that photo. Many thanks, AVV.