Photo by: Monica Bryand

Video by: Bruce Ellingson

Sandhill Crane at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Central Minnesota

Photo by: Bruce Ellingson

Holiday Open House:  See Upcoming events for information on the extended hours at the Eagle's Nest gift shop.


Over 8,000 Greater Sandhill Cranes are staging at the refuge, taking a rest along their southerly migration route. More cranes are arriving daily. From mid-October to early November the refuge hosts large numbers of these prehistoric birds as they roost overnight in refuge wetlands and then fly out to area croplands to forage during the day. 

If you would like to visit the refuge to see the cranes, the best time of day is dawn or dusk when the cranes are leaving or returning to their roost sites. If you’re not an early riser, driving the county roads throughout the day to scout for groups of cranes in recently harvested farm fields is another option. A sandhill crane viewing brochure with a map and information about the best crane viewing areas is available at the refuge website, 

With this year’s drier conditions, the cranes’ overnight roosts are more spread out across the refuge’s wetlands, providing us with unique sunrise and sunset viewing opportunities! Like in past years, the County Road 70 parking lot on the refuge’s northern boundary yields large groups flying overhead out to nearby farmlands. New for this year, cranes can be spotted in groups along the Prairie’s Edge Wildlife Drive, especially between mile 3.5 and 4. Up for an adventure? You can walk ¾ mile from the A6 parking lot to Durgin Pool, where you’ll be treated with sandhill cranes, along with ducks, swans and grebes.

Find the numbered parking lots on the refuge’s hunting brochure – note that blaze orange or blaze pink is recommended for this viewing option.

Want to learn more about Minnesota’s tallest bird? Watch recorded versions of the live programs hosted last fall, with one highlighting the behaviors and history of the staging population and the other focusing on the life history of cranes. Both of these videos are available at Sandhills at Sherburne: From Crane to Colt .

See Upcoming events for a schedule of on-site information.


For daily bird sightings as recorded in eBird,  check out .


For event updates, please consult the following resources:

Photo by: Bruce Ellingson

Sandhill cranes are already gathering at the refuge before they make their way south in their own unique way. To honor these amazing birds and raise funds to support the refuge, the Friends of Sherburne are hosting Sandhill Salute and you are invited to donate an “award” to your favorite category of sandhill crane talents!


From a gift in the “dance” category for $25 to an homage to “greater” sandhill cranes that visit the refuge for $500, a donation to this pretend award ceremony is a real opportunity to support the refuge and the Friends in a year when the usual live events and fundraising opportunities have once again been cancelled.


Award show swag? Yes, if you contribute $25 or more, not only will you be joining the Friends or extending your membership, but through the end of October you will also receive a custom-designed Sandhill Salute bandana as a thank you!


Donations support the refuge in providing education to children in nature’s classroom, furnishing information and facilities for refuge visitors, supporting expanded online opportunities to learn about the refuge and ensuring that future refuge events remain free and open to all.


Check out all the fun and GIVE NOW at

Video by: Bruce Ellingson/USFWS


Photo by: Bruce Ellingson

See the Upcoming Events Page for information on postponed or cancelled activities.
Click here for Refuge COVID-19 info.

"On any given visit, nature surprises and delights me."

- Dean Kleinhans, volunteer

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Photo by: Bruce Ellingson