Best time to travel to Wisconsin

Sandhill Crane Migration in Wisconsin

Every summer, thousands of cranes nest and grow their colts in Wisconsin

Best time: March–November

Sandhill Crane Migration
Mother crane and her colt at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
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The sandhill crane is the world's only crane species that is not endangered. This is the result of 20 years of conservation and protection efforts throughout North America. Wisconsin is home to a steady population of the greater sandhill crane subspecies, which consists of up to 100,000 birds. Their height can reach 6 ft (1.36 m) and their weight is around 10 lb (4.5 kg).

Best time for sandhill cranes spotting

Wisconsin sandhill cranes return home from their wintering grounds in Florida in March. In April and May, they lay their eggs, and hatchlings appear after about a month. In the fall, adult birds and their colts congregate in large groups to travel back south. This is the best time to spot them and see their peculiar dances.

Best places to see sandhill cranes

Every fall, up to 10,000 sandhill cranes gather on islands and along the banks of the Wisconsin River. They feed on leftover corn from farm fields, rest and gain some weight before flying south. The largest groups of cranes can be spotted at select Wisconsin wetlands such as Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and White River Marsh State Wildlife Area on the Fox River.

Protected areas and sanctuaries

There is also a designated Sandhill State Wildlife Area, established 40 years ago to save Wisconsin sandhill cranes from hunters. Other crane sanctuaries include Horicon National Wildlife Refuge near Mayville, Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge in Lake Michigan, and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Practical info

When is the best time to spot sandhill cranes in Wisconsin?

The sandhill cranes in Wisconsin arrive from Florida in March and stay until November. April and May see the laying of eggs and the appearance of hatchlings after a month. In the fall months of September and October, adult birds and their offspring gather in large groups to travel towards the south. During the fall migration, up to 10,000 sandhill cranes gather in Wisconsin River bank areas and islands, making it the best time to spot them. Show more

Where are the best spots to see large groups of sandhill cranes in Wisconsin?

Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and White River Marsh State Wildlife Area located on the Fox River offer the best spots to see large groups of sandhill cranes in Wisconsin. Additionally, the state's Sandhill State Wildlife Area, established 40 years ago, is a designated crane sanctuary that is home to Wisconsin's sandhill cranes. Other crane sanctuaries in Wisconsin are Horicon National Wildlife Refuge near Mayville, Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge in Lake Michigan, and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Show more

How tall can sandhill cranes in Wisconsin grow, and what is their average weight?

Weighing around 10 lb (4.5 kg) on average, sandhill cranes in Wisconsin can grow up to 6 ft (1.36 m) in height. The greater sandhill crane subspecies, with a population of up to 100,000 birds, is abundant in Wisconsin and not endangered. For more than 20 years, conservation and protection efforts have been in place in North America, leading to an increase in the greater sandhill crane subspecies population and the elimination of their endangered status. Show more

Are all sandhill crane species endangered?

The greater sandhill crane subspecies, which is prevalent in Wisconsin, is not endangered, unlike other subspecies such as the lesser sandhill crane. All sandhill crane species are not endangered. In some regions, the lesser sandhill crane is classified as threatened, whereas in others, it is endangered. Conservation and protection efforts for the sandhill crane spanned 20 years in North America, leading to a boost in the greater sandhill crane subspecies population and the eradication of their endangered status. Show more

What conservation and protection efforts have been made to save Wisconsin's sandhill crane population?

Wisconsin's sandhill crane population was saved from hunting through the establishment of a designated crane sanctuary called the Sandhill State Wildlife Area, which was established 40 years ago to protect the Wisconsin sandhill cranes. Across North America, conservation and protection efforts, including habitat restoration, enhancement through public and private lands, and the enforcement of hunting regulations, spanned over 20 years, increasing the population of the greater sandhill crane subspecies and leading to its elimination from the list of endangered species. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen