Whooping Cranes – Rowe Sanctuary

by Pam Bates, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Now that summer is here and all is right in the world of wild Whooping Cranes, we can sit back and reflect back on this phenomenon called spring migration.

Spring time along the Central Flyway

Every year, the Central Flyway becomes alive with hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes making their northern journey to their nesting grounds. During the migration, most will make a stopover at Rowe Sanctuary and if you’re lucky, you may see one or two wild whooping cranes among them.

John Smeltzer spent his entire career in wildlife management in Colorado, is still a board member for the Colorado Wildlife Federation, and has been fortunate enough to see Whooping Cranes while visiting Rowe Sanctuary during the spring migration. John says that he has “followed the recovery efforts of the whooping cranes from the days that the report was only 49 birds in the wild.”

Throughout his career in Wildlife Management, John says that he “only saw three birds in the wild around Larimer County in NE Colorado … and only single birds “hanging out” trying to figure the world out”.

Whooping Cranes – Rowe Sanctuary

John has been fortunate enough to have witness the Great Migration that occurs each spring at Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbons, Nebraska. He has graciously given FOTWW the opportunity to share his videos. We are posting John’s videos below, recorded from a blind at Rowe Sanctuary and we will let you enjoy the moments along with his own thoughts and words.

FOTWW thanks John Smeltzer for sharing these videos with us so that we can share them with you. We hope that you enjoy them. Sit back, relax, and turn up your volume.

Whooping Cranes - Rowe Sanctuary
Whooping Cranes – Rowe Sanctuary Photo by  John Smeltzer – Click on photo to enlarge.

Videos recorded at Rowe Sanctuary by John Smeltzer

John explained: “The morning was special. Two “white dots” in the emerging mass of sandhills waking up from their overnight at the Rowe Sanctuary. Finally there was enough light to tell that those two “white dots” were a pair of whoopers in the midst of thousands of sandhills. And then they started to dance for us. And after an appropriate amount of cacophony much of the group … including the two whoopers …. rose in the winds ….circled a handful of times to gain altitude and captured a north bound current of wind that pushed them north. I understand they were in Montana by nightfall.”

John added: “This video, shows the pair of Whooping Cranes rise amidst the chaos of the Sandhill rise …. and soar the area for a couple minutes.”

Finally John Smeltzer advised that: “The two Whooping Cranes landed a little closer to us after an initial morning “rise” and set about preening themselves while some Sandhill Cranes danced nearby.”


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***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
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