The fall migration has arrived in central Kansas: Whooping cranes were spotted over the weekend at Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County.
Each year, the endangered birds can be spotted during late October and early November at both Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County. They can also been seen in the marshes and crop fields around the region.
The birds come through Kansas as they migrate from their nesting grounds in northern Canada to their wintering spot at Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.
At Quivira, the best areas to look for them are at the south end of the Little Salt Marsh, which offers an observation
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tower and telescope to scan the marsh, and at the west side of the refuge's Big Salt Marsh, where another telescope is located.
Because the birds are endangered, observers must keep 1/2 mile from them to prevent disturbing or harassing them.
While whooping cranes are in the Quivira area, all hunting at the refuge is suspended.
Whooping cranes are one of America's most beloved shorebirds. They are the tallest species of North American birds, standing five feet.
The birds are white with a dark red cap, dark gray bill, and black legs and wing tips. In flight, they hold their necks straight out and their legs extend beyond their tails.
In 1942, only 14 whooping cranes were left. Now, the population is over 500.