SOLE Visits Monte Vista for the Famous Sandhill Crane Migration

This past weekend the SOLE team traveled to Monte Vista to film an educational video about sandhill cranes and their annual migration through southern Colorado. Never heard of a sandhill crane? Keep reading!

Every year, thousands of this subspecies of sandhill cranes migrate through southern Colorado on their way from Mexico to Idaho and the area around Grand Teton National Park. The San Luis Valley is an important stopover point for them to refuel. The sandhill cranes bathe and rest in the waterways of the Rio Grande and feed on the agricultural fields of the area.

Typically, birders from across the country travel to witness this marvelous migration and attend the annual sandhill crane festival. The festival was canceled for 2021 but that didn’t stop the birds! As usual, more than 20,000 birds will pass through this area during this time of year.

While visiting, the SOLE team was lucky enough to team up with Tyler Cerny, a District Wildlife Manager in the region. Tyler grew up in the area and has been observing the sandhill crane migration for years. He had a wealth of knowledge about the migration and also knew all of the secret spots for observing cranes. Since we were catching the end of the migration, at times we had to do a bit of searching to find the feeding fields of the cranes. Nothing like a good ‘ole fashioned crane-chase to make the SOLE team feel like Nat Geo’s newest recruits.

The SOLE team was also joined by Cathy Brons, the Education and Volunteer Coordinator for the southwest region of Colorado. Cathy has witnessed the sandhill crane migration many times and provided her own perspective on the phenomenon. According to Cathy, the crane migration is “a sign of spring for many” and “represents the cycle of nature that remains unwavering [even when] so much for us humans might be shaken or different”.

One of the reasons the cranes draw so much attention is their creative dance moves that are a significant part of their complex social structures. Their “dancing” is used for communication between potential mates and to solidify pair bonding. This behavior is also a part of their territorial disputes and social interactions with other birds. Check out some examples of their dance moves in the picture below!

Want to learn more about the cranes and their migration? Check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Spring Crane Viewing brochure and the Monte Vista Crane Festival website.

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