Alaska is lucky to have two populations of sandhill cranes that rarely mix. The so-called mid-continent population is the largest, numbering 500,000. These cranes arrive in Alaska to nest and can be spotted all over the state. The largest numbers of these sandhills can be observed during their annual migrations in April and late August. Several thousand sandhill cranes congregate at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge near Fairbanks to gain weight and rest before their long flight. That's the best location to watch them. Fairbanks even holds the annual Sandhill Crane Festival every August to mark this unique time.
The second population of cranes migrates along the Pacific Coast. This group numbers to about 25,000 birds. They usually nest along the Alaska peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Upper Cook Inlet. In the fall, the Pacific population flies over coastal Alaska and stops to rest in the Copper River Delta and the Stikine River Delta in the southeastern part of the state. The second half of September is the best time to spot these birds in the largest numbers before they take off for California.