Bird-watchers can gander at sandhill cranes during Uintah Basin migration

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is hosing sandhill crane viewing events in the Uintah Basin on Oct. 1, 2022. Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

JENSEN, Utah, Sept. 19, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is inviting bird-watchers to view and learn about sandhill cranes as the birds migrate to the Uintah Basin.

Viewing events are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, from 7-9 a.m. at the Jensen Nature Park, 8775 E. 6000 South, and 5-7 p.m. at the commuter parking lot at the intersection of U.S. 40 and State Route 88 between Vernal and Roosevelt. The evening tour will then head to the cranes’ roosting grounds at Pelican Lake and the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge.

“Sandhill cranes flock to the Uintah Basin during migration and are very easy to spot in the fields,” said Tonya Kieffer-Selby, DWR Northeastern Region outreach manager. “They have a crimson crown and gray body, and at about 4 feet tall, they’re one of the largest migratory birds in the world.”

Those who live near open fields in the Uintah Basin are familiar with the loud, rattling call of the large migratory birds. Sandhill cranes perform unique dancing and courtship rituals, and then choose mates that perform the best, according to DWR.

“They have loud voices that can be heard up to 2.5 miles away,” Kieffer-Selby said.

Participants will need to drive themselves to the viewing areas for the separate auto tours, DWR officials said. Some binoculars and spotting scopes will be available for use, but bird-watchers are encouraged to bring their own equipment.

“In addition to driving your own vehicle, be sure to bring layers of clothes appropriate for the weather, as well as drinks, water and snacks,” Kieffer-Selby said. “Also, if you want to get good, high-quality photos, bring a telephoto lens for your camera.”

DWR officials say sandhill cranes are opportunistic eaters, grazing on plants, grains, insects, snakes and mice. This can be frustrating for farmers, as the cranes can damage crops by digging up tubers and agricultural seed.

“Changes in weather patterns may mean a significant increase in the number of birds that become permanent residents of the area, especially in the winter months,” Kieffer-Selby said. “This, of course, is excellent for bird-watchers, but it can prove to be troublesome for local farmers. We understand the frustration local farmers have with these birds.”

Crop damage caused by cranes is one of the reasons state wildlife officials have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pacific Flyway Council to offer more crane-hunting permits in the area.

“In addition to viewing cranes, we hope the event will help teach the public about the importance of wildlife management,” Kieffer-Selby said.

While the viewing event is free, participants are asked to register in advance on Eventbrite.

For more information about the viewing events, contact the DWR Vernal office at 435-781-9453.


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