Winter in Kentucky will often decrease the amount of wildlife viewing opportunities. However, during the months of February and March, Kentuckiana has an excellent opportunity to view the migration of the Sandhill Crane.
Adult Sandhill Cranes stand up to three feet tall with a grayish-colored body and a deep red-colored head. These magnificent birds can weigh more than ten pounds and have a wing span of over six feet.
My wife and I reside in New Albany, Indiana and we recently had the opportunity to watch six separate flocks of cranes fly over our home. These birds will fly at a fairly high altitude compared to many other migrating bird species. Similar to geese, the formations often consist of a “U” shape or even a “V”.
One of the easiest ways to determine if you are viewing Sandhill Cranes flying over is to listen for a chorus of loud and sometimes erratic “cooing”. If you have a good pair of binoculars, look specifically at the legs of the birds as they will allow them to go limp and drag behind them.
The reason we are able to view Sandhill Cranes this time of year is due to their migration back north. For the next couple months they will be heading back to the great lake region to breed. A good place to look for Sandhill Cranes is cut agricultural fields. If you or a neighbor farms or has land that was used to harvest crops in the fall, keep an eye out as these birds will often stop in such fields for a few days or even a week!
While it’s often hard to time their migration in regards to viewing, trips to The Parklands might provide the opportunity! Many of our employees here at the park have witnessed first-hand the migration of the Sandhill Crane. So make sure to bundle up and come look for this beautiful bird, and all the treasures The Parklands has to offer. Stop by the PNC Achievement Center during open hours and we’ll help you plan your scouting trip.Photo by Ted Wathen