We visited the Whitewater Draw one afternoon in early March hoping to see the Sandhill Cranes. When we first arrived at these wetlands, we met a couple of disappointed bird-watchers who told us that they hadn't seen any Sandhill Cranes and that these birds must have migrated northward already. Thinking that the bird-watchers may not have looked everywhere, I decided to walk on the opposite side of the wetlands from where they had come from, and just moments later, I spotted a small group of Sandhill Cranes resting in a grassy area.
I'd never seen Sandhill Cranes before, and I was absolutely thrilled to see several of them. While I was enthralled with watching these few Sandhill Cranes preen and poke around in the grass for food, I heard the clattering and trumpeting calls of more Sandhill Cranes flying into the Whitewater Draw wetlands.
Flock after noisy flock of Sandhill Cranes kept arriving…
Until there were hundreds of them in the wetlands.
If only those disappointed bird-watchers had waited just a few more minutes! The Sandhill Cranes leave the Whitewater Draw in the morning to spend part of their day feeding in the surrounding grasslands and agricultural fields and then return to the wetlands later. If you arrive at the Whitewater Draw at the wrong time of day, you may not see a single Sandhill Crane.
Sandhill Cranes are very large birds. They are 47 inches tall (119 cm or almost 4 feet ) and have a 79 inch wingspan (201 cm or over 6 1/2 feet). They are mostly gray with a red forehead, white cheeks, and a dark bill. The juveniles are brown.
These Sandhill Cranes usually leave for their northern breeding grounds by the end of March, but a few of them will sometimes remain longer.