A volunteer-driven survey of sandhill cranes, aimed at locating breeding birds in Ohio, is actively seeking observers to assist in the count on Saturday, April 15.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is coordinating this vital project in partnership with the International Crane Foundation and the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, as part of the larger Midwest Crane Count initiative.

The sandhill crane is currently listed as threatened in Ohio; however, their population has seen growth in recent years. These cranes can be elusive during nesting season, making the count a crucial effort to better monitor Ohio’s breeding crane population. The 2023 count will take place across 29 Ohio counties, including Ashland, Columbiana, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Fulton, Geauga, Hardin, Holmes, Knox, Lake, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Morrow, Ottawa, Pickaway, Portage, Richland, Sandusky, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Wayne, Williams, and Wyandot. These counties encompass the habitats where sandhill cranes usually nest, such as wet meadows, shallow marshes, bogs, and other wetland areas.

In 2021, a pilot survey documented 160 sandhill cranes across five counties. The following year, approximately 250 volunteers counted over 300 cranes in 22 counties. The 2023 count aims to include seven additional counties for surveying. Ohio’s sandhill cranes are seasonal residents that migrate south for the winter, feeding during daylight hours on grain, insects, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. These native birds fly at high elevations in large flocks, often comprising hundreds of birds, and their range extends from Mexico and Florida to Alaska and Canada, depending on the season.

Ohio residents who are interested in volunteering for this important survey can contact their county coordinator by visiting https://obcinet.org/get-involved/ohio-crane-count/. Volunteers are expected to commit time for scouting an area, attending a virtual training session, and participating in the actual morning count. Bird enthusiasts of all skill levels who can identify a sandhill crane are encouraged to join. Access to a vehicle is necessary, and participants are preferred to work in pairs with some prior experience using the eBird community science platform.

The ODNR is committed to maintaining a balance between the wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. For more information, visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.