As one of the largest high desert valleys in the world, the San Luis Valley, with its soaring jagged peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, rolling sand dunes, and eclectic personality, comes to life with the Monte Vista crane migration. Over 20,000 of these larger than life birds migrate early spring to the valley to feed upon grain fields, wet marshes, and meadows, before heading north to their breeding locations. Visitors can catch a glimpse, as the cranes put on a show of flight, extravagant dancing, and confident struts. Complete with Mount Blanca towering in the background, this is a site that shouldn’t be missed!
As a celebration of this magnificent show Mother Nature puts on, the town of Monte Vista hosts an annual festival in early March, the Monte Vista Crane Festival. The town showcases arts and craft show, bird tours, and wildlife photography classes. In an interest to learn more about the cranes and their migration (and improve upon my photography skills) I took one of the photography workshops. After spending 12 hours out in the field with the wildlife photography experts from, In Light of Nature, I learned a lot about these fascinating creatures and the art of capturing them in motion. Much more educational than I had expected, I gained some fun facts about these captivating birds:
5 Facts about the sandhill cranes
- Cranes are a monogamous species and once a pair has formed, the mate for life.
- The “dance” of the sandhill crane, is a fanciful mating behavior that includes, bowing, jumping, running, and wing flapping to exhibit signs of courtship. And while this is the main tactic in finding a match, this similar behavior can be seen outside the breeding grounds to help relieve tension and help strengthen the bond between the pair.
- Their natural color is gray but sometimes looks more reddish due to their preening habit of rubbing mud-stained iron oxide on their feathers.
- They fly up to 4,000 miles during their migration periods, traveling up to 300 miles per day at an average speed of 30 MPH.
- Cranes are amongst the oldest living species on the planet, dating back over 9 million years. It is believed the sandhill cranes have been migrating to the San Luis Valley for several thousands of years.
With so many things to do in Colorado, be sure to add the Monte Vista Crane Migration to your Colorado “bucket list”. You won’t be sorry that you did! To view more pictures from the Monte Vista Crane Festival, visit my gallery page.