Why thousands of cranes are converging on Colorado

Take a day trip to see what the National Wildlife Federation calls one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the US.

Story Caitlin DeMarco

February, 2020

Love is literally in the air this month. If not love, perhaps lust. Or at least the bird part of “the birds and the bees.”

Put plainly, from mid-February through mid-April, sandhill cranes fill the sky, as some 23,000-plus of the tall silvery birds with six-foot wingspans descend upon Southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley on their annual migration. They come to rest and to roost—to eat, sleep, dance, and mate. And when they do, they bond for life, because cranes know how to keep the romance alive.

Each spring, the pairs renew their bond through a courtship ritual that’s not too different than that sloppy happy couple you see at Milk’s Lipgloss night: dancing, chortling, gesticulating wildly, throwing napkins in the air—or tufts of grass in the case of the birds. You know, rekindling their fire before taking off to go raise their young.

To which we say, whatever works. And this seems to be working for them.

From the Issue

Subscribe

Sign up to receive the latest news and updates.