The Incredible Colorado Crane Migration

Every spring, the sandhill crane visits the San Luis Valley as they migrate from the south to the north. They stop to refuel on fields of barley in Monte Vista, CO.  The Wildlife Refuge in Monte Vista is a fantastic spot to view and listen to the thousands of majestic cranes.  An abundance of other wildlife can be spotted here as well including bald eagles, waterfowl, deer, and fox.

crane2The best time to view the cranes is during sunrise and sunset.  This year, we had the pleasure of viewing them as they flew in among a spectacular sunrise backdrop. Later in the morning they begin feeding in the fields and entertaining onlookers with their unique dances and voices. Cranes mate for life and their ‘dancing’ is a social behavior that enhances bonding and territorial claims. During this activity, they open their wings while jumping as high as 6 feet off the ground showcasing their agility and enormous wingspan.

A buck blends into the brush at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge

The history of the sandhill crane migration is very rich.  For thousands of years, the cranes have been visiting the valley during migration in the spring and fall. On a cliff face in Monte Vista, lies a huge petroglyph of a sandhill crane, which indicates early southern Colorado residents celebrated their presence.

Every year, Monte Vista has designated early March for a crane festival to be held in honor of these special birds.  The festival hosts free education at the local middle school by wildlife experts, local naturalists and biologists.  Tours are organized to view the cranes in special areas of the refuge and a raptor identification tour is also available.

If given the opportunity, be sure to check out the annual crane festival in Monte Vista, CO. It is a great opportunity to witness Colorado’s biodiversity.