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Sandhill Crane Survey Methods

This Crane Survey will provide a baseline to better understand the rapidly-evolving nature of crane distribution in Pennsylvania.

If you know of a gathering of cranes, we'd appreciate hearing from you. Don't assume someone else will report a local sighting. Please submit a report from your survey effort whether you observe cranes or not.

Participation is a simple and straightforward process.

  1. Review identification characteristics of sandhill cranes and become familiar with plumage differences between adults and juveniles. Become confident in distinguishing cranes from great blue herons and similar species. See Sandhill Crane Identification Page.
  2. Scout likely locations. Many counties have areas where cranes can regularly be found. Other sightings are harder to predict. Check with local birdwatchers or farmers to enquire about cranes in your area. Secure permission from landowners if private property must be crossed during survey.
  3. Morning or evening counts are best in order to observe cranes in their roost sites. Cranes leave their roost areas (typically marsh or shrub wetlands) roughly 30 minutes after sunrise and return roughly 30 minutes before sunset. If it's not possible to survey within 30 minutes of sunrise or sunset, cranes may be counted in fields during the day. Carefully indicate time and location of survey on data form. Each site should be surveyed only once.
  4. Use good crane observation etiquette. Cranes can often be seen at a considerable distance and counts should be conducted with minimal disturbance to birds. Cranes should be monitored with binoculars or spotting scopes. Do not approach birds.  
  5. Submit your observations whether you find sandhill cranes or not. If you go to a likely spot and find NO cranes, that observation is also important to us. If this happens, please provide all information requested, and simply indicate '0' for cranes observed.
  6. Choose an option for submitting your crane observations:
    1. Download the Sandhill Crane Survey Form (PDF) and mail completed forms to Sandhill Crane Fall Survey, Game Commission-BWM, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg PA 17110-9797.
    2. Scan and email completed forms to Nate Huck, survey coordinator, Bureau of Wildlife Management:
    3. Submit your crane observations online.

Thanks for your assistance with this important survey! Your data will be submitted to US Fish and Wildlife Service.