County Coordinator Resources - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


County Coordinator Resources

Annual Midwest Crane Count

whooping crane thousand

In addition to Sandhill Cranes, count participants in central Wisconsin may see a Whooping Crane! Photo by Ted Thousand

Welcome – this section is designed specifically for your needs as a County Coordinator. Following are a variety of resources and handouts, including printable materials should you need an extra copy or two. Explore!

COVID-19 Guidelines for 2021 Crane Count – Are you counting with others from outside your household? Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, crane count volunteers should plan on wearing a mask during the count and stay at least six feet from participants from different households. Participants should also avoid carpooling with other counters from outside their household and counting in large groups to limit exposure to COVID-19.

Remember, if you have further questions you may contact the International Crane Foundation’s Crane Count Coordinator at 608-356-9462.

Handouts and Compilation Materials

The documents below are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Other Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I arrive at my survey site?

Please arrive at your survey site before sunrise on the day of the count so that you are in place before the cranes begin leaving roost. If you are unfamiliar with the area, you should visit your site before the morning of the count to identify a safe parking location and to check with landowners if your count area is on private property. We recommend that counters survey only one site for the two-hour time frame, but some counters choose to count adjacent sites. Please use your best judgment when counting multiple sites to ensure that you are not re-counting birds as they move from site to site.

If the weather is poor on Count day, can or should I count on a different day?

In order to be consistent and avoid as much double-counting of cranes as possible, all participants should do their survey on the single designated day and time in April. If poor weather affects the survey results, the long-term trends of the survey will not be affected, as these are compiled from several years’ worth of data.

Should I be concerned about turkey hunting taking place on Count day?

The Count often coincides with turkey hunting season. Staying on public right-of-ways and wearing visible clothing are two ways to improve safety. If your site is on private property, you should also ask the property owners if there will be hunters on their land the morning of the Count. Please follow the landowner’s wishes and stay off the property if requested.

Should I tally only the cranes I see, or the ones I hear too?

Often, cranes are more easily heard than seen, so try to tally both cranes seen and heard. It is a good idea to bring along a notebook to help you keep track of everything you see and hear during the survey. Write down the direction from which you hear the crane(s), so that you do not record the same crane(s) multiple times if they are heard again later. If many cranes are calling together, it is difficult to estimate the exact number, but record your best estimate. Note that the data sheet includes an option to record “C Probable Courtship, Display or Copulation” – check this behavior if you hear any unison calls.

Does ICF still want our data sheets? If not, do coordinators need to keep them?

No, the International Crane Foundation does not need your data sheets, because we will be able to access the data through the form on our website – thanks to all of your volunteer effort! Coordinators are welcome to keep the data sheets, but it is not necessary once your data is entered.

If I create a new Crane Count site, does ICF need to be informed?

We are no longer plotting and recording new sites in our records. If a counter wishes to create a new site, they may do so in agreement with their county coordinator. In the past, we limited the count to pre-determined sites or ones identified by counters over the years of the survey. We want to stress that it is not necessary to stick to our past site number system. Feel free, as coordinators, to continue with the former system or create your own system that works for your counters. We hope that this opens up the survey to new areas in your county and will give you and your counters more flexibility. Our main goal is to be able to track the population trend of cranes through the upper Midwest, and we thank you for your assistance with this.

If we do not see cranes during the Count, do we still enter 0 on our data sheet and enter these data into the online form?

Yes, you may still enter zero on your data sheet if you do not see or hear any cranes. We also ask that you still enter these data into the form on our website, as this allows us to more accurately track the number of sites surveyed in each county.

How do I identify female vs. male cranes?

Just by looking at cranes, there is no definitive way to tell gender, as females and males look alike. Males tend be slightly larger than females, but that is not a consistent guideline. When cranes are paired, they share incubation and parenting duties. They also make a unison call, in which each bird has a part. For every one note of the male, the female makes two notes. The female tends to keep her head in a horizontal position, while the male’s takes on a vertical posture. Note that we do not ask you to record the gender of the cranes that you observe during Crane Count.

Will a pair unison call in flight?

Not usually. Cranes make “flight calls” that allow the birds to locate their mates while flying. Because a flight call is often answered by the other member of the pair and because the calls are often repeated, they could be mistaken for unison calls. However these calls are more likely guard calls.

Can cranes swim?

Yes. All cranes can swim, but adults avoid swimming unless necessary (they do not have webbed feet, which makes swimming awkward and difficult). The chicks must swim to follow their long-legged parents through deeper wetlands, but they wade more and swim less as their legs get longer.

How can I tell a crane’s age?

In the field, there is no definitive way to age a crane more specifically than juvenile vs. adult. From hatching until winter, juveniles are readily identifiable by the absence of the red patch on the head. Juveniles do not begin to develop visible red patches until they are nearly a year old. Wild cranes may live to be 20-30 years of age. Even in captivity, it is nearly impossible to age cranes without detailed records.