Crane Chasing

Each fall, thousands of sandhill cranes fly over Chicago as part of their migration to the southern U.S. But this year more cranes than usual flew directly over the city, due in part to an early cold snap up north and westerly winds that pushed them to the lakeshore.

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 down there. And 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, letting us use some excellent video and photos, and introducing me to JoshKen and Josh. 

Watch Sky Full of Cranes to learn more about the crane’s migration, and view interactive graphics and a slideshow.

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

Related stories:

Volunteers Collect Dead, Injured Birds in the Loop

May 24: Since 2003, a group called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors has made it their mission to collect birds that have been killed or injured after striking buildings and other structures.

George Archibald on His Work Saving Cranes from Extinction

Sept. 29, 2015: Conservationist George Archibald has spent his life working to bring cranes back from the brink of extinction. He joins “Chicago Tonight” to talk about his groundbreaking work which has been recognized around the world.

Sky Full of Cranes

Nov. 18, 2014: Every year at this time, Sandhill Cranes migrate south. But this year, the skies over Chicago seem to be full of them. Field Museum ornithologist Josh Engel explains why.