Observers reported 357 sandhill cranes in Ohio during the volunteer-driven annual Midwest Crane Count in April, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW). The count was coordinated by the ODOW, International Crane Foundation and Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative.
The survey was conducted in 30 pre-selected counties during the crane’s nesting season to monitor Ohio’s growing breeding population of sandhill cranes. Cranes were observed in 24 of those counties. Counties were selected based on the availability of wetland habitat that cranes use for nesting.
The six counties with the most crane sightings during this year’s count were Wayne (96), Lucas (77), Geauga (63), Ottawa (18), Logan (15), and Williams (15). Killbuck Marsh and Funk Bottoms wildlife areas in Wayne County are preferred nesting locations for sandhills.
This year’s count was the third annual event tracking the status of sandhill cranes in the Buckeye State. During the survey’s inaugural year in 2021, Ohio volunteers observed 160 sandhill cranes across five counties. An expanded count last year recorded 311 sandhills in 26 counties.
A sandhill crane is a tall wading bird characterized by a long neck and bill. It is mostly gray in plumage with a red patch on its forehead. It is often recognized by its rolling bugle call. During the breeding season, sandhills can be secretive and take on a rusty color from muddy environments. Sandhills are migratory, breeding in wetlands across the northern U.S. and Canada, and wintering farther south in North America.
These regal birds were once extirpated from Ohio. They returned to Wayne County in 1987 to breed and have been slowly expanding since. They are still listed as a threatened species in Ohio.
Wildlife enthusiasts can support sandhill cranes by purchasing an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. Fourteen dollars of every $15 Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp sold are invested in the state’s Wildlife Diversity Fund. The fund supports habitat restoration, wildlife and habitat research projects, creation of free wildlife educational materials, as well as efforts to restore and conserve endangered and threatened species. The legacy stamp can be purchased online through the ODOW’s Wildlife Licensing System and at any location that sells hunting and fishing licenses.