The lesser sandhill crane and the greater sandhill crane winter from September to February in the Central Valley from Chico to Pixley. The greatest concentrations of cranes are in the central east Delta (around the Cosumnes Preserve), the Merced Grasslands and Pixley regions, and the Chico-Marysville area.
They are one of the oldest living bird species, and eat insects, small animals and grains. The cranes have adapted to modern agriculture as their natural habitat has diminished and now show a strong preference for cornfields and other agricultural landscapes where they can find a high concentration of food.
The cranes roost in habitat consisting of wetlands or flooded agricultural fields and prefer around 3 inches of standing water. Farmers and wetlands managers in Northern California intentionally keep some of their land flooded to attract cranes and other waterfowl.
There are a number of places where the public has access to view cranes: the Cosumnes Preserve, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve, at The Nature Conservancy’s Staten Island.