Sandhill crane is one of the oldest bird species on the planet and also one of the largest. With a height of 48 in (122 cm) and a wingspan around 80 in (200 cm), cranes can be easily spotted even from a distance and are recognizable thanks to a bright red spot on their forehead. Every fall, a large group of sandhill cranes arrives in Texas to spend winter by the warm Gulf of Mexico. Graceful birds can often be spotted on Galveston and Padre islands.
Sandhill cranes arrive in Galveston from their northern breeding grounds in the last week of October. They can usually be seen in wetlands from Galveston to Port Aransas. The Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council even holds a crane festival on the second weekend in December to celebrate the return of these beautiful birds.
There used to be several roosting sites for sandhill cranes in Galveston. However, now they only roost at Sweetwater Preserve. You can also head to Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, 45 mi (72 km) southwest of Galveston, to spot a larger group, as there are up to 1,000 birds roosting on the flooded rice fields in the southern part of the park. Sandhill Cranes can also be observed at Padre Island National Seashore, not far from Corpus Cristi.