Sandhill crane or Antigone canadensis is one of the oldest birds on the planet and one of the most prominent in North America thanks to its large size and a recognizable red spot on the forehead. Luckily, these birds can be spotted almost everywhere throughout the Midwest, especially during their annual migration season. Starting from mid-September and till mid-November, thousands of cranes from the so-called eastern population pass through Illinois on their way to wintering sites in Florida. There's also a small population of cranes in northeastern Illinois that stay there during spring and summer for breeding and nesting.
Cranes enjoy shallow waters and open spaces and can usually be spotted at prairies, wetlands, and marshes. In Illinois, the marshes of McHenry and Lake Counties provide an ideal habitat for cranes. Every fall, from September through November, McHenry County Conservation District offers a special "Sandhill Crane Experience" that lasts from 5 to 8 pm at Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park. It includes observation of the birds that congregate right below the windows of the Lost Valley Overlook Room as well as an educational presentation and dinner. Cranes can also be seen at Moraine Hills State Park and Goose Lake Conservation Area in McHenry County as well as at Chain of Lakes State Park, Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve, and Volo Bog in Lake County. The region's best spot to see sandhill cranes is in the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana, which can be reached from Chicago in less than two hours.