Cranetivities – Fall Migration

Welcome to the latest edition of Cranetivities! Join us this week as we learn more about fall migration. You can find our most recent edition of Cranetivities here.

Activity Description: There is a chill in the air, the leaves are changing color, and the days are growing darker. These are all examples of seasonal changes happening right now across the northern hemisphere. Another amazing, yet sometimes overlooked, change is in the behavior of our neighborhood birds. Maybe in your part of the world birds have been leaving, or perhaps you have noticed the number of birds increasing. What is the cause of this? Birds that live in northern states in the summer, like Wisconsin, are leaving for their wintering grounds further south to enjoy the food sources that the warmer climate has to offer. This is the exciting time of fall migration!

Grades: All ages

Time estimate: 1 to 3 hours

Topics covered: Conservation Science

Materials needed: Internet connection, printer (optional for the game), dice, Elmer’s glue (or other white glue), markers, plastic baggies, dish soap and paintbrush

Adult Involvement: May be needed for game and craft

Indoor or Outdoor: Indoor


Wisconsin Life – Crane Migration
Cranetivities – Be a Conservation Hero
Species Field Guide – Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane Staging Areas
Sandhill Crane Finder
How to: Create Window Decals to Prevent Bird Collisions


Sandhill Cranes are well known across North America for their long migrations. Some large migratory flocks of cranes will congregate in specific locations during migration in preparation for their long flight. This behavior is known as “staging.” The Wisconsin River near the International Crane Foundation’s headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is well known for being one of these staging locations. Thousands of cranes will spend time at these staging locations every year!

Check out this map of staging locations in Wisconsin by EEK! Wisconsin. If you live in Wisconsin, you can stop by one of these locations and witness a part of the awe-inspiring Sandhill Crane migration! Watch this video about Sandhill Crane migration in Wisconsin and try to answer the following supplemental questions:

• Why do you think Sandhill Cranes gather or stage together during fall migration?

• If you live in Wisconsin, where is the nearest Sandhill Crane staging area near your home? If you do not live in Wisconsin, check out our Sandhill Crane Finder to see if there are any Sandhill Cranes spotted near you.

• Where do the Sandhill Cranes near you spend their summers and winters? You can look at our Sandhill Crane field guide as a hint.


Now that you know some details about the migration of Sandhill Cranes, have you ever wondered what it might be like to become a migratory bird yourself? We have put together a board game that simulates the challenges that birds face during their long migrations. Where will you find food if an early snowstorm stops you in your tracks? What will you do if you encounter a hungry predator? You will face these challenges and more in this game. Challenge your friends and see who can make it to your wintering grounds first!

This game can be played with or without a gameboard. With the gameboard, choose an item to be your “crane” that you move across the board. Download the cards and instructions here and the gameboard here.

Navigating through our modern cities is one of the many challenges migratory birds face. Each year, millions of birds are injured or killed as they strike windows, believing that they can fly through the transparent glass. This tragedy is needless, and there are ways that YOU can make an enormous difference! This activity by New York Audubon is an easy and cheap DIY window sticker craft. Not only will this protect birds from colliding with your windows, but it is a cool way to decorate the windows in your home. If you would like to do a slightly different window sticker craft, check out this Cranetivities from July about how you can help nature!


Fall migration is an extraordinary event that brings birds and people together each year. For it to continue happening for years to come, it is up to us to help birds navigate through human-made obstacles. Turning off your lights at night and creating window clings are fantastic ways to help birds along their amazing journeys. We hope that you can get outside this fall and witness one of nature’s great spectacles – fall migration!

Got feedback? We would love to hear your thoughts on our educational resources. This survey will allow you to provide feedback on our Cranetivities series. If you have used any of our other educational resources, like our From the Field series or our online activity packets, you may provide feedback on those resources here. You may also email us at info@savingcranes.org if you have questions or comments for us or would like to share photos of you and your kids’ crane creations! We will see you next time for a new edition of Cranetivities!