Every Fall, thousands of Sandhill Cranes arrive in the California Delta, ready to spend their Winters vacationing near Lodi. For over 20 years, the Sandhill Crane Festival has celebrated the ancient birds’ arrival, along with the wildlife and natural beauty of Lodi. This river-rich basin, coupled with marshes teeming with life, is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. During the winter months, the Sandhill Crane arrives, offering individuals an opportunity to view this magnificent bird. With heights of up to 4 feet tall and a wingspan ranging 6 to 8 feet, these birds are quite spectacular to see!
Finding Waterfowl in the Winter Marshes
You’ll find Sandhill Cranes all around the Lodi perimeter and Delta fields and marshes, though there are two favored, local viewing spots. The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is a designated viewing area, giving you a front row seat to one of the best shows nature has to offer. Sunrise and sunset are prime times to take in the amazing audio and imagery of the Sandhill Cranes flying out in the morning and flying in at night to sleep on their protected flats. Cosumnes River Preserve is also a preferred gathering spot for these cranes and the viewers who enjoy their beauty. The preserve offers a few different opportunities for visitors to see the cranes. Spectators can take advantage of the one-mile Lost Slough Wetlands Walk, sit back and enjoy the Driving Tour, or, for those who want a little different perspective, the river is a perfect place to launch a kayak.
Viewing Sandhill Cranes During the Annual Festival
Lodi celebrates the arrival of the Crane with the Sandhill Crane Festival each November. This unique festival offers visitors nature-related educational classes, bus tours and entertainment. Visitors can self-view or sign up for one of many bird watching excursions offered by our local Fish and Game office. The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve offers great areas to view the cranes and other fowl. The Cosumnes River Preserve is another favorite among visitors and offers year-round hiking trails along its scenic river.
Other Lodi Bird Varieties
While in Lodi visitors are likely to see many other birds including the:
- Pacific Pied-billed Grebe
- American White Pelican
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Least Sandpiper
- Western Flycatcher
- ...and many species of hawks, quail, pheasant, egrets, teals, ducks, geese and woodpeckers.
Take a Nature Tour
Tours to Lodi-area nature preserves and out into the Delta are the highlights of the Sandhill Crane Festival, and the most popular are the crane fly-ins. Each evening at dusk, hundreds — sometimes thousands — of Sandhill cranes leave the areas where they have been foraging for food and return to their winter roosting grounds at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and Cosumnes River Preserve near Lodi, and at Staten Island in the Delta. Volunteer guides share stories about the cranes’ natural history as the stately birds return home for the evening, calling out as they soar through the sky.
For more information on tours available, please visit the Sandhill Crane Festival website's tour page.
More to Do at Hutchins Street Square
Hutchins Street Square serves as the hub of activity for the Sandhill Crane Festival. There will also be presentations, workshops with wildlife experts and photographers, family-friendly activities, and even an art show. View the Sandhill Crane Festival website for more information.
1. Limit Your Movement
While feeding, some cranes will be on the lookout. Your close movement will cause the flock to fly away, using valuable energy reserves. Keep your distance to at least 400 yards.
2. Be Quiet
While there may only be a few watching for you, they will all be listening for you.
3. Be Patient
Once you get a good view, sit tight and you're likely to see some interesting behavior.