As part of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, Maryland will begin participating in the USFWS’s annual Fall Sandhill Crane Survey. We are seeking the assistance of volunteers to help monitor the expansion of Sandhill Cranes from the Eastern Population into the Free State. During 2016 the survey period is from November 9th to the 13th.


For a number of winters there has been a small but growing flock of wintering Sandhill Cranes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Then in 2015, Maryland had its first breeding record for Sandhill Crane. The pair raised two chicks, and returned this past spring to breed in the same area.  In response to these signs of continued expansion of Sandhill Cranes from the Great Lakes states eastward, the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership will begin monitoring their expansion into Maryland.

Since 1979, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has been conducting an annual fall crane survey of birds in the Eastern Population. This survey provides a population estimate as well as an indication of trends over time, and results are used to make management decisions. The current estimate of the Eastern crane population now stands at more than 60,000 birds, a significant rebound from their near extirpation in the late 1800’s. For more information on the status of the Eastern population of Sandhill Cranes, please see the USFWS 2016 Sandhill Crane Status Report.

The Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership will now assist and support USFWS by collecting data on the unfolding expansion of the Sandhill Cranes in our state. We are looking for the assistance of birders and biologists to document the distribution of migratory individuals. The survey is conducted annually during early November. This year, 2016, the survey period is from November 9th to the 13th.

Your assistance in this effort will serve as a starting point for tracking population trends over time. We are eager to learn more about the distribution of Maryland’s cranes, habitats used during the staging period, and the current ratio of juveniles to adults.

If you have spotted cranes at a roosting or feeding site, we would love to hear from you. If you go out to a crane spot but do not see any birds, we also need to know. Every observation is important!

To learn more about how to participate in the survey or report sightings, please see our survey protocol page.

We appreciate your help with this important survey!