Home Site Map

Contact Us
Join Us
Research Projects
Crane Festivals
About Us



Crane 8725
Crane 8726
Crane 8737
Crane 8746
Crane 8824
Crane 8827

PTT Study


A satellite telemetry project sponsored by the West Coast Crane Working Group, in partnership with Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), with funding contributed by the Paul L. King Charitable Foundation, The Foley/Frischkorn Wildlife and Conservation Fund, Chevron Research and Technology Company, and other appreciated supporters.

Gary L. Ivey, Thomas J. Hoffmann, and Caroline P. Herziger.

In November 2001, the West Coast Crane Working Group initiated a pilot project using satellite telemetry to track movements of sandhill cranes from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Washington and Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (WA), just across the Columbia River in Oregon, to other staging and wintering areas, as well as nesting grounds. Read why the study was initiated, learn how cranes were captured, and view maps of their movements.


There are three subspecies or races of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) that occur in Washington and Oregon. The greater (G. c. tabida) breeds, while some Canadian (G. c. rowani) and lesser (G. c. canadensis) sandhill cranes stop in these states during migration between their northern breeding grounds and wintering grounds in California, with some staying to winter along the Columbia River near Vancouver and Portland. The greater sandhill crane is the largest, the lesser the smallest, and the Canadian intermediate in size. In Washington state, the sandhill crane is considered an Endangered Species, while in Oregon, the greater sandhill crane is classified as Sensitive.


Sandhill cranes use Ridgefield NWR, Sauvie Island WA, and surrounding farm lands. This region serves both as a staging and wintering area, but the nesting locations and migratory routes to nesting areas and other migrating and wintering sites are unknown. It has been assumed that all three subspecies of cranes use this area, however, there is a degree of uncertainty about the subspecies composition of these flocks. Therefore, in order to determine subspecies, breeding areas, migratory paths, and other wintering areas, we initiated this study using satellite transmitters called Platform Transmitting Terminals (PTTs). Initially, the focus was to be on the lesser subspecies, however, all the birds trapped and those carefully observed in the area did not appear to be lessers, therefore, past theories about lesser sandhill cranes are now in question. Perhaps lessers do use the area during early fall migration, but none were identified during late fall or spring. No greater sandhill cranes were noted either.



Located just west of the city of Ridgefield in Clark County, Washington, Ridgefield NWR lies between channels of the Columbia River and contains about 5,000 acres. Across the Columbia in Oregon, Sauvie Island WA contains about 12,000 acres, in Multnomah and Columbia Counties. These two areas provide corn and barley fields, pastures, and wetlands which are used by sandhill cranes for feeding and roosting. Cranes move back and forth between the two areas, and also use private farm fields including Woodland Bottoms, Squaw Island, and Vancouver Bottoms in Washington, and Sauvie Island and east of Scappoose along the Multnomah Channel in Oregon.




Six of the 8 cranes captured were marked with PTTs; 2 others only received colored bands for visual identification because we desired to increase our chances of capturing California migrants, and they were captured from the same flocks as PTT birds. Four of the cranes were captured at Ridgefield NWR and 4 at Sauvie Island WA.




Migration: We tracked the movements of the PTT birds via satellite technology, and documented their spring migration routes and destinations. Based on the data we obtained, it appears that the birds move down the Columbia River, follow the Washington coast northward, cross Cape Flattery, across Vancouver Island, and up the coast of British Columbia (BC).



Final Destinations: One crane migrated to Dall Island in southwest Alaska while the other 5 cranes stopped along the northern and central B.C. coast. Of those 5, one was on the mainland near Port Edward while the other 4 were on islands off the coast. One bird each was on McCauley Island, Banks Island, Dowager Island and Princess Royal Island. All six birds have been at these locations since late April and are probably nesting.

Subspecies: The measurements of the cranes we captured were mostly within the range of the Canadian subspecies and the head shape was that of Canadians. The migration pattern and destinations of these few birds also suggest that statements of the Canadian subspecies using the coast of BC are correct (see Who Are These Cranes?).

Click the following items to see detailed results for this study:

Up PTT Study Lower Colorado Queen Charlottes Conboy Lake NWR Central Valley Subspecies Whooping Cranes


Info Box 1

PTT Study Lower Colorado Queen Charlottes Conboy Lake NWR Central Valley Subspecies Whooping Cranes

You can force your horizontal buttons to line up vertically inside an info box!


Info Box 2

You can put extra information in these boxes! To make more info boxes, click in this cell and go to Table / Select / Table. This table should be highlighted. Copy (Edit / Copy) and then paste (Edit / Paste) the table wherever you want it to be!

To adjust the width of the info box, right-click and select Table Properties, then define the width of the table.

If you don't want this column, click here and go to Table / Select / Cell, then right-click and select Delete Cell.










Home Up Next