Birding Hotspots for Spring Sandhill Crane Migration

Birds gather by the thousands during sandhill crane migration. Here are some of the best hotspots where you can find them.

Most birders are familiar with the sounds of a passing flock of sandhill cranes during migration. Many of us have seen them fly right over our house. Unfortunately, they are typically high up and the view isn’t great. There are spring birding hotspots, however, where you can find thousands of sandhill cranes staging before and during their migration to their breeding grounds in the spring. Here are some of the best hotspots for sandhill crane migration.

sandhill crane migration nebraskaCourtesy Cathy Bruha/Country magazine
Sandhill cranes stop along the Platte River in Nebraska during their spring migration.

1. Sandhill Crane Migration Nebraska: Platte River

The Platte River is famous for incredible numbers of sandhill cranes. During five weeks each spring, about 500,000 sandhill cranes pass through the area! You may also see whooping cranes. For those who can’t visit in person, this year there are virtual options including Rowe Sanctuary’s virtual crane cam. For more information on this area, visit the Nebraska Game and Parks website. Learn more secrets about bird migration.

sandhill crane migrationCourtesy Jim Dunn
Sandhill cranes at Goose Pond FWA in central Indiana on their return trip back north

2. Sandhill Crane Migration Indiana: Goose Pond FWA

Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area in southern Indiana hosts a large numbers of sandhill cranes in migration each spring as well as a festival to celebrate them, Marsh Madness, during early March. Don’t worry if you miss the festival, plenty of cranes will still be around through the middle of March. Learn more about bird migration patterns and bird flyways.

sandhill crane migrationsumikophoto/Shutterstock
Flock of sandhill cranes in the snow-covered corn field near Socorro, New Mexico

3. Sandhill Crane Migration New Mexico: Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache national wildlife refuge in New Mexico is well-known for its wintering population of sandhill cranes. Bird-watchers even host a great birding festival to celebrate them, Festival of the Cranes. In addition to thousands of sandhill cranes, you can also see amazing numbers of snow geese in the area. Learn how to start birding beyond the backyard.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations: Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.