Sandhill Cranes drop in on western Iowa by the thousands
February 21st, 2013 by Ric Hanson
While a major winter storm is expected to clobber Iowa today (Thursday), a sure sign of spring is already here. The migrating Sandhill Cranes are beginning to appear at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in the Missouri River valley, straddling the Iowa/Nebraska border. Greg Wagner, a spokesman for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says many hundreds of the large white-and-grey birds have already landed in the area. All told, perhaps 650-thousand cranes will stop off in the region over the next few weeks.
“This is one of the most unique things that happens around the world with birds and with wildlife,” Wagner says. “This is the largest gathering of cranes in the world, starting about now and all the way into early April.” The cranes are making a pit stop on the way north to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. The numbers should peak here in mid-March.
“You’ll see the cranes out feeding in the fields,” Wagner says. “Take along a good zoom lens with your camera, a good pair of binoculars. Enjoy the cranes at a distance. Don’t try to approach them. They’ll fly and go elsewhere.” Several hundred eagles and thousands of ducks and geese have already been spotted along the river, too. The Sandhill Cranes draw some 70-thousand visitors from around the world to the region every year, with an economic impact of about 8-million dollars.