The fall migration has arrived in central Kansas: Whooping cranes were spotted this weekend at Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County.
Each year, the endangered birds can be spotted during late October and early November at both Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County and at Cheyenne Bottoms. They can also been seen in the marshes and crop fields around the region.
The birds come through Kansas as they migrate to their wintering spot at Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico from their nesting grounds in northern Canada.
At Quivira, the best areas to look for them are at the south end of the Little Salt Marsh, where there is an Observation Tower and telescope to scan the marsh, and at the west side of the refuge's Big Salt Marsh, where another telescope is located.
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Because the birds are endangered, observers must maintain a half-mile distance from the birds to prevent disturbing or harassing them.
During the period when whooping cranes are in the Quivira area, all hunting at the refuge will be suspended until the birds have left the area.
The birds are easily one of America's most beloved shorebirds. They are the tallest species of North American birds, at five feet tall.
The birds are all white, with a dark red cap, dark gray bill and black legs. In flight, the birds hold their necks straight out and their legs extend beyond their tail. Their wing tips are black.
In 1942, only 14 birds were left. Now, the world population for the birds is over 500.