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Sandhill Cranes Fall Migration

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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.

Oct. 4: 2,069 
Oct. 11: 3,485 
Oct. 18: 3,804 
Oct. 25: 4,881 
Nov. 1: 3,782 
Nov. 10: 6,044 
Nov. 15: 7,250 
Nov. 22 : 31,975 
Nov. 29 : 24,208 
Dec. 8 : 31,970 
Dec. 13 : 21,827 
Dec. 20 : 17,432 

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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