Sandhill, Whooping Cranes Spotted Outside Chicago

Cranes Stop at Local Wildlife Preserve During Migration

Seeing a single sandhill crane can be pretty exciting.

They weigh about 14 pounds and have a wingspan of more than 7 feet.  

Now imagine seeing thousands of them at once. Every year, from late September through December, thousands of sandhill cranes gather just two hours south of Chicago during their fall migration.

That sounded like a great road trip to Jay Shefsky, so a while back he headed down there with some Chicago birders. Along the way there was a big surprise. 

Now it's fall migration again, so let's take another look.

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (Josh Feeney)

    (Josh Feeney)

  • (www.KKoontz.com)

    (www.KKoontz.com)

  • (www.KKoontz.com)

    (www.KKoontz.com)

  • (www.KKoontz.com)

    (www.KKoontz.com)

  • (www.KKoontz.com)

    (www.KKoontz.com)

  • (www.KKoontz.com)

    (www.KKoontz.com)

When I heard that most of those cranes would stop at a wildlife preserve just two hours south of Chicago, I asked Field Museum ornithologist Josh Engel to take me there.

Two wildlife photographers, Ken Koontz and Josh Feeney, agreed to meet us there. But we were all in for a surprise – two rare, endangered whooping cranes appeared in a field near Jasper-Pulaski.

Special thanks to wildlife photographer Jerry Goldner for telling me about the sandhill cranes and for introducing me to Josh, Ken and Josh.

More on this story

Mid-November is generally when the sandhill crane “census” is highest at Jasper Pulaski – usually more than 20,000 birds. And Jasper Pulaski posts a count on its website every few days. On Oct. 27, it was 6,878. And once again, a whooping crane has been spotted. 

You can find out more about visiting Jasper Pulaski here.  

Operation Migration has played a role in reintroducing endangered whooping cranes into eastern North America. Watch a video about their work, below. 


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Sky Full of Cranes

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