County Coordinator Resources

Annual Midwest Crane Count

migration thumbnailWelcome to County Coordinator Resources! This section is designed specifically for your needs as a coordinator. There are a variety of handouts, including printable materials should you need an extra copy or two. Explore!

Remember, if you have further questions you can contact the ICF Crane Count Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (608) 356-9462.

whooping crane thousand

In addition to Sandhill Cranes, count participants in central Wisconsin may see a Whooping Crane! Photo by Ted Thousand

Handouts and Compilation Materials

The documents below are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  • County Coordinator Checklist (READ FIRST for a handy step-by-step checklist for coordinating the count)

  • Crane Count Press Release

  • Crane Count Poster

  • Data Sheet

  • Data Entry Instructions: Using eBird; New for 2014 Crane Count: Click here to view guidelines from Wisconsin eBird for reporting sensitive species, which includes Whooping Cranes.

  • Digital Maps: We now have digital maps for each of the counties in Wisconsin. Click here to view and print your county map (8.5 x 11 in). To request county-level maps for other states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota) OR a set of maps for individual sites in your county (each site is a separate 8.5 x 11 in map) in any of the six Crane Count states, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Participants List: Prior to the count, ICF will email you an Excel version of the participant list that you can fill out and email to ICF after the count (we will use these lists to send out the count results). If you would prefer a PDF or printed version, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Crane Count Participant Coupon: Please print and share these coupons with your county participants to thank them for participating in the Annual Midwest Crane Count. Click here to learn more about visiting ICF.

Other Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Count Day

If the weather is poor on Count day, can or should I count on a different day?

In order to be consistent and avoid as much double-counting of cranes as possible, all participants should do their survey on the single designated day and time in April. If poor weather affects the survey results, the long-term trends of the survey will not be affected, as these are compiled from several years' worth of data.

Should I be concerned about turkey hunting taking place on Count day?

It is best to be aware that often the Count coincides with turkey hunting season. Staying on public right-of-way and wearing visible clothing are two ways to improve safety. Turkey hunters tend to sit very still and imitate the calls of turkeys. As a result, it is not a good idea to imitate turkey calls, or attempt to locate a calling turkey. If you do intend on proceeding on to private property, it is necessary for you to contact the landowners. This would also be a great time to ask if there will be hunters afield, as they will probably be aware of it. It is best to follow the landowner's wishes and stay off the property if requested. It is most important to stay safe!

Using New Data Sheet

Can we still use the old data entry sheets?

No, we ask that you use the new data entry sheets created in 2012. These forms were updated to match the data entry requirements in eBird, and it is easiest for those entering the data into eBird to have the data on the newest version of the form.

Is the new data sheet more like a summary sheet, and should we bring our own notebook to record our observations?

Like a summary sheet, the new data sheet is designed to help you enter your final numbers into eBird. It is a good idea to bring along a notebook to help you keep track of everything you see and hear during the survey.

Should I tally only the cranes I see, or the ones I hear too?

Often, cranes are more easily heard than seen, so try to tally both cranes seen and heard. Write down the direction from which you hear the crane(s), so that you do not record the same crane(s) multiple times if they are heard again later. If many cranes are calling together, it is difficult to estimate the exact number, but record your best estimate. Note that the data sheet includes an option to record “C Probable Courtship, Display or Copulation” – check this behavior if you hear any unison calls.

Does ICF still want our data sheets? If not, do coordinators need to keep them?

No, ICF does not need your data sheets, because we will be able to access the data in eBird – thanks to all of your volunteer effort! Coordinators are welcome to keep the data sheets, but it is not necessary once your data is entered into eBird.

Using eBird

If some or all of our counters elect not to use eBird and the County Coordinators enter their Count data, do we have to establish a new account for each volunteer/data sheet or can we enter the site data under our own account?

It is perfectly ok for coordinators to enter their counter’s data. To be consistent, eBird suggests that when entering Count data that is not your own, you should create a new Crane Count account in eBird with a new username (but you can use the same email address that you use for your personal eBird account). You may use the same Crane Count eBird account for ALL Count data you enter (i.e multiple sites). Data entry instructions found here!

Can a County Coordinator enter all of their county’s Crane Count sites into before the count?

Yes, you are able to pre-plot your counter’s locations in eBird. If you are entering a new location, please reference Crane Count in the location name. If your Crane Count site has already been plotted on eBird or is already a “hot spot”, then use it! Please do not add another location marker adjacent to an existing eBird location. You can always reference your Crane Count site within comments as you are entering your data.

If I create a new Crane Count site, does ICF need to be informed?

We are no longer plotting and recording new sites in ICF’s records, as we are transitioning the recording of site locations to eBird. If a counter wishes to create a new site, they may do so in agreement with their county coordinator. In the past, we limited the count to specific sites pre-determined by ICF or identified by counters over the years of the survey. We want to stress that it is not necessary to stick to ICF’s past site number system. Feel free, as coordinators, to continue with the ICF system or create your own system that works for your counters and is compatible with eBird. We hope that this opens up the survey to new areas in your county and will give you and your counters more flexibility. Our main goal is to be able to track the population trend of cranes through the upper Midwest, and we thank you for your assistance with this. 

If we do not see cranes during the Count, do we still enter 0 on our data sheet and in eBird?

Yes, you may still enter zero on your data sheet if you do not see or hear any cranes. In eBird, however, you should not enter zero.

In eBird, if you are entering a checklist of all birds seen and you did not see or hear any Sandhill Cranes, just leave that space blank as you would for any other not-seen species and click  "yes" in answer to the question about submitting a complete checklist of all birds seen (this is the last step before submitting your data in eBird).

Alternatively, if your checklist has no species at all (e.g., you did not see any birds, including cranes), you can still enter that by giving the effort information (entering your site location, etc.), entering no species data, and then click "no" in answer to submitting a complete checklist (because we have to assume at least one or more birds of some species were present, seen, and not recorded).

Is it a problem if my counters either do not include their site # or enter the wrong site # when they name their location in eBird?

During this transition period we are asking counters to include the site # in their location name for reference. If this step was forgotten or if it was entered incorrectly, it is ok. The location within the county is entered and that is what matters as we compile data. Coordinators can continue using site #s for location assignments, and if needed we can work with individual coordinators to help find site specific results.

Is it a problem if my counters are not sharing their completed eBird checklists with me or ICF?

In our eBird instructions we ask that counters include the words "Crane Count" in their site location title and share their completed checklists with their coordinators and ICF. We have added these two extra steps to figure out the most efficient way to pull the data from eBird for our Count summary. If your counters did not complete these extra steps, do not panic. We plan on working directly with eBird to get these data and compile it for you.

Crane Biology and Behavior

How do I identify female vs. male cranes?

Just by looking at cranes, there is no definitive way to tell gender, as females and males look alike. Males tend be slightly larger than females, but that is not a consistent guideline. When cranes are paired, they share incubation and parenting duties. They also make a unison call, in which each bird has a part. For every one note of the male, the female makes two notes. The female tends to keep her head in a horizontal position, while the male's takes on a vertical posture. Note that we do not ask you to record the gender of the cranes that you observe during Crane Count.

Will a pair unison call in flight?

Not usually. Cranes make "flight calls" that allow the birds to locate their mates while flying. Because a flight call is often answered by the other member of the pair and because the calls are often repeated, they could be mistaken for unison calls. However these calls are more likely guard calls.

Can cranes swim?

Yes. All cranes can swim, but adults avoid swimming unless necessary (they do not have webbed feet, which makes swimming awkward and difficult). The chicks must swim to follow their long-legged parents through deeper wetlands, but they wade more and swim less as their legs get longer.

How can I tell a crane’s age?

In the field, there is no definitive way to age a crane more specifically than juvenile vs. adult. From hatching until winter, juveniles are readily identifiable by the absence of the red patch on the head. Juveniles do not begin to develop visible red patches until they are nearly a year old. Wild cranes may live to be 20-30 years of age. Even in captivity, it is nearly impossible to age cranes without detailed records.