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Sandhill Cranes Fall Migration

Jasper-Pulaski FWA

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Sandhill Cranes Audio

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View one of Indiana's greatest wildlife spectacles at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area. Each fall, thousands of Sandhill Cranes visit the area's shallow marshes from mid-October through mid-December. Crane numbers peak in late November or early December.

Sandhill Crane counts

DNR staff at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area make weekly crane counts during peak fall migration (October – December). The count is typically performed each Tuesday unless impeded by inclement weather. If unable to count on a Tuesday, the staff will try again on Thursday of that week. The counts generally end the last week of December.

The counts are performed by four to six property staff members before sunrise. They are stationed in parked vehicles in separate areas of the property. Each person counts small groups of cranes as they leave the roost for the day and fly overhead in their assigned directions, and jots down their counts on paper. Toward the end of each count, one of the property managers checks the waterfowl resting area where the cranes were roosting, lets the other staff know when most of the cranes are out for the day, and estimates the remaining number of cranes if any remain. When each staff member returns to the office with their pad of paper, the property manager tallies each set of numbers for the final weekly count.

This counting process works well because the cranes gather in wetlands near the center of the property each night. The staff members are separated by enough distance in each direction on the property to avoid duplication of counts.

2023 Oct. 4:
Oct. 10:
Oct. 17
Oct. 24:
Oct. 31:
Nov. 8: 
Nov. 14:
Nov. 21:
Nov. 28:
Dec. 7:
Dec. 12:
Dec. 19:
2022 Oct. 4:
Oct. 11:
Oct. 18:
Oct. 25:
Nov. 1:
Nov. 10:
Nov. 15:
Nov. 22 :
Nov. 29 :
Dec. 8 :
Dec. 13 :
Dec. 20 :

Best time to view

  • Sunrise: Gigantic flocks rise and fly from their roosting marshes to feed in surrounding private land (agricultural fields). On their way to feed some birds stop in the open grassland areas of the refuge.
  • Sunset: Beginning about one hour before sunset, flocks of cranes kite into the refuge near the observation area from all directions. They gab and socialize again before returning to roosting marshes at dusk.

While this is the cranes’ usual routine, it is important to remember they are wild animals and are not always predictable.

Best location to view

The crane spectacle is best seen from the observation platform at the Sandhill Crane Observation Area (view map). During the day, cranes can be spotted feeding and dancing in nearby harvested farm fields. Roosting marshes in the Waterfowl Resting Area are closed to the public so that migrating birds can rest without human disturbance.

Viewing tips

While cranes may gather close to the observation platform, they are usually several hundred yards away. A few stationary viewing scopes are available but bringing your own spotting scope or binoculars is recommended. If you are photographing cranes, your most powerful zoom lens will be handy, as trying to get too close to these birds will easily spook them.

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