Massive Cranes Migrating Through Chicago Can Be Seriously Noisy, Birders And Neighbors Say


CHICAGO — It’s a pigeon. It’s a plane. No… it’s a crane.

Sandhill cranes are migrating through Chicago by the tens of thousands, according to the Chicago Ornithological Society — and neighbors who’ve had to cover their ears.

“Oh God yes, they are loud,” said Edward Warden, president of the birding society. “The best way I can describe it is an overly excited trumpet sound. There is a strange feeling that cranes are just thrilled to be alive and flying.

Sandhill cranes stand 3 to 4 feet tall. They nest in Cook County forest preserves and in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada, Warden said.

They are a rare sight, except when they migrate.

An unseasonably warm November was interrupted by a grinding cold front, freezing waters and quickly sending birds flying, Warden said.

“They understood, ‘We have to get out of here,'” Warden said. “We’re seeing a higher density of them moving very suddenly.”

A team of hawk watchers counted 10,000 cranes crossing the North Side in just one day, Warden said.

Most sandhill cranes have to fly through Chicago, which is a “bend in the road” before they can reach water and travel to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area in Indiana, a “central staging area” for the cranes which then migrate further to warmer parts of the central and southern US, Warden said.

Small flocks cruising the Chicago skies often “circle, band together, and continue as a larger flock,” Warden said. That could mean more than 500 cranes traveling and screeching as one unit.

“These birds are so numerous,” Warden said. “They can be thousands of feet above you and you can still hear them. They are loud and hoarse birds.

Sudden weather changes have been difficult to gauge this year, but Warden said he expects the cranes to continue migrating through December.

“It’s possible this is the peak,” Warden said. “But we can’t assume there won’t be another wave coming.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A flock of sandhill cranes migrate during golden hour at Winnemac Park in Lincoln Square on November 21, 2022.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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