WILLCOX, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates more than 47,401 migratory sandhill cranes are now in the Sulphur Springs and Gila River valleys, surpassing the previous record of approximately 40,000 set in 2010.
The largest concentration of 25,734 is at AZGFD’s Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal. The Willcox Playa area has 17,938 cranes; the Safford Valley/Duncan, 2,324; Rodeo/Portal; 820; Bonita, 585.
Game and Fish conducted its annual crane count Wednesday. Meantime, a virtual version of the annual Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival starts tomorrow through Saturday. See www.wingsoverwillcox.com for more information.
The cranes usually fly out as a group at dawn to feed, gleaning grain from farmer’s fields. Most of the cranes follow this feeding pattern, but some linger in or near their roosts. They return from feeding between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The cranes typically begin arrive mid-September to early October They begin to leave approximately mid-February, sometimes departing all at once, but others may stay until the middle of March.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has trust responsibility for managing more than 800 native wildlife species – the most of any inland state – for current and future generations of Arizonans.