Migratory Birds
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banded crane

Banded crane. Photo credit: Dave Krueper, USFWS.

Sandhill Crane Research at Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area

We’re here today because of cranes and corn,” said Dan Collins, a Migratory Bird Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, standing in a heated garage on a chilly December morning. Dan, along with researchers from New Mexico State University, is preparing to spend a day capturing, banding and attaching GPS transmitters to sandhill cranes at Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area, a state-owned refuge located in the Middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico.

This effort is part of ongoing research to understand the relationship between the Rocky Mountain Population of greater sandhill cranes, a migratory bird species once threatened with extinction, and corn, a prolific cash crop planted throughout bird’s U.S. range. Wintering populations of sandhill cranes utilize corn within the Middle Rio Grande Valley as a winter food source; yet, the overall importance of corn versus other native food plants is not well understood.

Measuring the length of a crane head. Photo credit: Bob Murphy, USFWS.

At the same time, researchers are trying to understand the full annual cycle of sandhill cranes—identifying breeding areas, migration timing, and habitat selection, and estimating the resources necessary to support wintering populations of cranes in the valley. Combined, the information gathered from these research projects will inform and drive management decisions about how and where to invest in conservation for the species.

Other partners on the project include the Intermountain West Joint Venture, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Idaho Fish and Game, and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Watch a video of researchers from the Service and NMSU trap and band a group of sandhill cranes.

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Learn more about migratory bird conservation and join in celebrating the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial.

Create awareness, promote key actions, increase support, and expand opportunities for engagement in the conservation of migratory birds.
Listen to Dan Collins radio interview on waterfowl management.
Migratory Birds: A Brief Conservation History

Celebrating 100 Years of Bird Conservation
Last updated: October 3, 2018