Best time to travel to Michigan

Sandhill Crane Migration in Michigan 2024

Tens of thousands of cranes fly south from Michigan after breeding over the summer

Best time: October–November

Sandhill Crane Migration
A Sandhill crane and an adopted Canada gosling in Kensington Metropark, Michigan
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Sandhill Cranes are one of the oldest bird species on the planet. It's also one of the largest birds in Michigan, being 3-4 ft (1.2 m) tall and having a 6 ft (1.8 m) wingspan. Cranes start to arrive in Michigan from their wintering grounds in March. In April and May, they lay eggs in the marshes and wetlands, and it's best not to disturb cranes during their nesting season. The greatest chance to spot these gorgeous birds comes during their annual fall migration when thousands of cranes with their grown-up colts congregate before they head to the southern states such as Georgia, Florida, or Texas. Cranes can be easily spotted all over Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, especially near marshlands. You can see them flying overhead or on stopovers in parks and bird sanctuaries. The peak time to observe Sandhill Cranes in southern Michigan is from October through November.

The Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary near Jackson, Michigan, is the largest roosting area for sandhill cranes in the state. Spanning 1,000 ac (404 ha) of protected wetlands, it's the ideal environment for birds. The sanctuary always hosts large congregations of birds during the fall migration as well as nearby Waterloo Recreation Area.

The vast Kensington Metropark that surrounds Kent Lake is one of the most popular crane-spotting locations in Michigan, thanks to its proximity to Detroit. The Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary near Bellevue, Michigan, offers the best view of crane groups as they are feeding and roosting at the fields and wetlands. Every fall, Michigan Audubon Society holds the annual CraneFest at the Kiwanis Youth Conservation Area in Bellevue during the second weekend in October.

Practical info

When is the best time to observe Sandhill Cranes in southern Michigan?

The peak time to observe Sandhill Cranes in southern Michigan is from October through November when tens of thousands of birds migrate from Michigan to southern states. Parks and bird sanctuaries are great places to observe them, as they congregate there during the fall migration. It is the best time to view these elegant birds in Michigan. Show more

What is the location of the largest roosting area for Sandhill Cranes located in Michigan?

The Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary near Jackson, Michigan, is a protected wetland spanning 1,000 acres, offering the ideal habitat environment for Sandhill Cranes. During the fall migration, thousands of Sandhill Cranes roost and rest there with their families, making it the largest roosting area for these elegant birds in the state. Show more

What sort of environment do Sandhill Cranes prefer and require in Michigan?

Sandhill Cranes prefer wetland areas and marshes where they can find food and water. However, advancements regarding land development and urbanization have caused a decrease of these habitats which resulted in a decline in crane populations. Their ideal environment is protected wetlands and restored habitats that provide a favorable location for them to breed, nest, feed, and raise their young. Show more

Where is the ideal location to be able to have a great view of Sandhill Cranes as they feed and roost?

For visitors planning to view Sandhill Cranes as they eat and rest in Michigan, the Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary near Bellevue is the best place. It is known for its abundant fields and wetlands, making it one of the largest and essential Sandhill Crane habitats in Michigan. Viewing towers and boardwalks provide visitors with close-up views of these elegant birds. Another well-known spot that attracts a lot of crane lovers is the Kensington Metropark near Kent Lake, close to Detroit. Show more

Is there an annual event held in Michigan to celebrate Sandhill Cranes?

The annual CraneFest, held during the second weekend of October at the Kiwanis Youth Conservation Area in Bellevue, is one of the events related to Sandhill Cranes in Michigan, organized by the Michigan Audubon Society. Visitors learn about guided tours, speakers, and unique exhibits detailing the behavior patterns and migration of Sandhill Cranes while providing a rare opportunity to observe the sights and sounds of thousands of cranes in one location. As a result, it's highly recommended for people with an interest in nature. Show more

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