4 exciting options for Whooping Crane and Sandhill Crane Viewing Tours ♿

Whooping Crane and Sandhill Crane Tours ♿

Private  Whooping Crane Tours:  Mid September - Late October

Private Sandhill Crane Tours:  Early September and Late October

2023 Private 1-day Whooping Crane Tours available: September 28, October 4,5, 10, 11, 12, 18, 19.

2023 Private 1/2 - day Sandhill Crane Tours available: September 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19,  October 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.

2023 Private 2-day Whooping Crane and Sandhill Crane Tours available: September 22-23, 24-25, 26-27, 29-30, October 2-3, 6-7, 13-14,16-17,20-21,22-23.

2023 Public Whooping Crane Group Tour: Sunday, October 1.

Day Tours 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

1/2 Day Sandhill Crane Tours: 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Self-Drive Escorted Birding Tour

Advance Booking Required

NEWS FLASH:  Our October 16, 2022 tour found 73++ Whooping Cranes including 3 families with TWINS!

Whooping Crane Tour Description

Grain fields near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada have become the best dependable viewing location in the world to view rare Whooping Cranes, the tallest bird in North America. As local birders, we know the best historical places to search for these spectacular birds. All proceeds support Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation charity.

For many years, our Saskatchewan Whooping Crane tours led by Stan Shadick have found groups of 10 - 30 birds feeding during fall migration. In 2018, we found a single flock in excess of 150 whoopers! In 2019 and 2020, there were several flocks totaling over 100 individuals. In 2021, between 30 and 100 individuals were present during our tours between September 17 and October 24.

The population recovery of the endangered Whooping Crane has become a tremendous success story for wildlife conservation. The Canadian population of these birds once dipped as low as 15 individuals but now exceeds 500 birds. In 2022, 95 nests were counted on their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park and 68 young cranes were counted at the end of summer.

In 2023, we are planning both 1-day and 2-day custom private tours from mid-September through mid-October to look for Whooping Cranes and/or Sandhill Cranes. We also plan 1/2 day private Sandhill Crane tours. These 2 species of cranes are usually found in different locations. We often find Sandhills in flocks of 500 to several thousand. We will also be on the lookout for large flocks of Canada, Cackling, Snow, Ross's and Greater White-fronted Geese as well as ducks, swans plus songbirds including Harris's Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird.  We regularly find several roosting flocks containing over 100,000 Snow Geese! You may view the birds using our high quality spotting scope.

Most of our out of province guests prefer to book our 2-day tour for the best chances for observing both Whooping and Sandhill Cranes. The 2-day tour option also provides a second chance to view more Whoopers on the second day at additional locations.

♿ This tour is ideal for low-mobility clients because they may remain in their vehicle during this driving tour.

Because cranes sometimes move to different locations on different dates, we cannot guarantee finding whoopers on any tour. Nevertheless, Saskatoon Custom Bird Tours has always found Whooping Cranes on all of our previous Whooping Crane Viewing tours.

Covid Safety Policy on Tours

  1. Your tour leader is fully vaccinated.
  2. Clients must normally drive themselves in their own personal or rented vehicle. The leader will usually drive in a separate vehicle. We will use cell phones to communicate between each other during the tour.
  3. Please wear a mask and maintain physical 2 meter distancing when walking outside or viewing birds through the spotting scope that I will set up.
  4. This policy may change when public health orders change or when Covid case numbers decrease.
  5. Please contact us before booking tour if you have any special requests with regard to this policy. In certain cases, if requested, leader may be willing to ride in client's vehicle or drive client's vehicle.

What to Wear

What to Wear. In case of an early snowfall or cool wet weather, bring a winter coat, raincoat, hat, gloves and long underwear. Bring your binoculars and a scope (optional). Cameras are optional.

Testimonials

Click to hear Calgary Naturalist Brian Keating on CBC Calgary giving his review of a recent Whooping Crane tour he booked with us.

Canadian Geographic Travel Article:  Click to read "A Saskatchewan road trip in search of Whooping Cranes"

Canadian Geographic Article. Click Here.

"Thanks again for a terrific couple of days of birding" (Ian T)

"We had such a fantastic time and learned so much from you. We will be back for other tours in the future"  (Paulette M)

"Once again thanks Stan. Many long lasting memories." (Bob P)

"We just wanted to thank you again for a most enjoyable tour last week.  The whooping cranes, of course, were the highlight, but we also found your history of the cranes quite fascinating.  Over the years, we had heard some of the recovery story, but the original breeding across the prairies was a surprise. And we hadn’t heard about all of the early attempts to help the recovery. As you said, it would be great to see breeding resume in Saskatchewan, and possibly other areas as well.

We also appreciated the opportunity to see several species that only appear in southern Ontario as “rarities” or “accidentals”. Always nice to see birds we haven’t seen in a long time.

Thanks again for all your patient help and guiding." DJ & SJ

Transportation

Participants on these tours need to drive their own personal or rented vehicle. RVs and vehicles pulling trailers are permitted on private tours but are not recommended. Owners of full electric vehicles should phone 306-652-5975 to discuss whether their range is sufficient for this tour. The driving distance may be about 400 km for Whooping Crane tours and 100 km for half-day Sandhill Crane tours. EV charging stations are available in several Saskatoon hotels.

Carpooling

If you would like to share the costs of a tour with other interested birders, then complete the Carpooling Section of the Registration Request Form below or email the tour name, your name, phone number and email address to birdtours@sasktel.net

Tour Fees

TOUR FEE for private 2-day Whooping and Sandhill Crane tour excluding transportation: CAD $1330 (about US $1040,  £870) for a party of 1 – 4 persons. Fee includes only guiding services (8 hours/day) of leader and shared use of spotting scope.  This fee is the total fee for your party. it is not a per person fee. Client must cover their transportation costs in their personal or rented vehicle. Guide will travel in a separate vehicle. We can communicate via cell phone. Accommodation and meals are not included.. Email birdtours@sasktel.net for information about payment options. We will stop to pick up food for lunch.  This 2-day option is the preferred choice for observing both Whooping and Sandhill Cranes.

TOUR FEE for  private 1-day Whooping Crane tour excluding transportation:  CAD $690 (about US $540, £450) for a party of 1 – 4 persons. Fee includes only guiding services (8 hours/day) of leader and shared use of spotting scope. Client must cover transportation costs in their personal or rented vehicle. Guide will travel in a separate vehicle. We can communicate via cell phone. Accommodation and meals are not included. The 1-day tour available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays will focus on looking for Whooping Cranes but likely will not find Sandhill Cranes.

TOUR FEE for  private 1/2-day Sandhill Crane tour excluding transportation:  CAD $390 (about US $290, £255) for a party of 1 – 4 persons. Fee includes only guiding services (8 hours/day) of leader and shared use of spotting scope. Client must cover transportation costs in their personal or rented vehicle. Guide may travel in a separate vehicle. We can communicate via cell phone. Accommodation and meals are not included. The 1/2-day tour will focus on looking for Sandhill Cranes near Saskatoon.

BUDGET TOUR FEE for October 1, 2023 public Whooping Crane group tour excluding transportation:  CAD $490 (about USD $380, £320) for 1 person or $590 (about USD $480, £390) for a party of 2 - 4 persons travelling in a single car or truck. RVs are not suitable on group tours. Unlike the previous private "family" tours, participants in this 8-hour public tour will join a group of whooping crane enthusiasts in a small convoy of up to 6 vehicles.

Tour starts about 8 am and returns to Saskatoon about 4 pm. Fee includes guiding services (8 hours/day) of leader and shared use of spotting scope . Client must cover transportation costs in their personal or rented vehicle. Guide may travel in a separate vehicle. If so, we can communicate via cell phone app. Accommodation and meals are not included. This 1-day public tour will focus on looking for Whooping Cranes. Masks to be worn when outside your vehicle.

TAX RECEIPT: A tax receipt for 50% of the tour fee will be issued to the person paying for the tour.

CANCELLATION POLICY: Refunds less a $50 administration fee will be given if cancellation notice received 60 days before date of tour.
No refunds if cancellation notice received less than 60 days before date of tour unless another client takes your place.

All guiding fee proceeds will be donated to Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Reservations

Reservations: Complete the form below or email: birdtours@sasktel.net and provide names of clients, their addresses and requested type of tour and tour date.
Full payment due at time of booking. Payment instruction will be emailed to you after registration form is received. You may also phone Stan Shadick at 306-652-5975.

2023 Tour Reservation Request Form

If you do not have a cell phone, enter your land line.
Mailing Address needed for tax receipt.
2-DAY Whooping and Sandhill TOUR DATES:: Sep 22-23, 24-25, 26-27, 29-30, Oct; 2-3, 6-7, 20-21, 22-23. 1-DAY Whooping Crane TOUR DATES: Sep 28, Oct 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 18, 19. 1/2 DAY Sandhill Crane TOUR DATES: Sep 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, Oct 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, BUDGET Whooping Crane TOUR DATE: Oct 1

If you do not hear back from us within 24 hours, then please email: birdtours@sasktel.net or phone 306-652-5975.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane - Photo by Bruce Acton

Whooping Crane

©️ Madeleine McLaughlin

Long necked
with legs like ruby stilts
the crane lifts it wings
to it's side
and dances with little strides

Click here for balance of poem

Whoopers and Sandhills

Whooping Cranes flying above Sandhill Cranes by Nick Saunders

Whooping Cranes in grain field

Whooping Cranes by Nick Saunders

Large flock of Whoopers

Part of a flock of 154 Whooping Cranes photographed by Bob Godwin.

Snow Geese flock

Snow Geese by Bob Godwin.

We frequently find roosting flocks containing over 100, 000 Snow Geese!

Why book a Whooping Crane Viewing tour with Saskatoon Custom Bird Tours?

  1. LOCAL EXPERIENCE. Your guide has over 30 years experience in leading birding tours to observe these magnificent birds. Although Whoopers often move to different locations at different times of the day and on different days of the week and during different years, he will lead you to the most likely spots to find them.
  2. ETHICS. Your guide will show you how to use special techniques to observe nearby Whooping Cranes responsibly without disturbing these endangered birds. A spotting scope may be used to observe birds that are far away from the vehicle.
  3. LEARN ID TIPS. You can learn how to use field marks and sounds to identify the cranes, swans, geese (up to 5 species), ducks, grebes, eagles and other raptors, longspurs plus many songbirds. Your guide will take you to the best locations for finding these species during your tour.
  4. LEARN ABOUT CONSERVATION. You will learn about the history of Whooping Crane Conservation in North America and the current conservation issues facing these birds. The Canadian Wildlife Service has played an important role in this conservation success story. Your guide is an experienced researcher of wild birds and has received awards for his activities in the wildlife conservation movement.
  5. BEST VEHICLE FOR OBSERVING. We believe that your personal or rented vehicle will usually provide a better observing experience during your tour than the crowded expensive vans offered by some out-of-province companies. Often dark tinted van windows cannot be rolled down to provide optimal conditions for viewing and photography.
  6. WILDLIFE CHARITY. Because your tour leader volunteers his time to lead these tours, all of your tour fee is used by our local wildlife rehabilitation center to help pay the cost of food, medicine and hiring of summer students needed to care for injured birds and small mammals harmed by human activities.
  7. TAX RECEIPTS. You will receive a tax receipt for 50% of the tour fee.

Can you photograph Whooping Cranes during our tours?

YES. You are welcome to bring your camera on our tours.

During our tours, we ensure that the Whooping Cranes are not harassed by our actions. We stay on public roads and do not trespass on private fields. Because Whooping Cranes are often alarmed if they see humans walking in the open, we take special precautions to avoid such disturbance. If the birds are relatively close to a road, then we require our guests to remain inside their vehicle or hide behind trees or vehicles, when attempting to obtain photos.

Sometimes guests with good experience in bird photography can obtain excellent photos or videos using telephoto lenses. Sometimes a combination of heat haze, weather conditions and distance to cranes may not permit suitable photographic conditions. For this reason, we do not advertise this tour as a photography tour. Often conditions for photography improve during cooler days in mid to late October.

Images taken on previous tours

Single Parent Whooping Crane family
Single Whooping Crane parent and chick by Bowman family
Whooping Crane Twins
Whooping Crane Family with twins by James Deng
3 adult Whooping Cranes
3 adult Whooping Cranes by Gordon Sick
Flying Whooping Cranes
Whooping Crane pair in flight by Atul Sharma
2 Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane pair by Atul Sharma
Sandhill Cranes in flight
Young Sandhill Crane flying with parent by Atul Sharma
Peregrine and Harrier
Immature Peregrine Falcon fighting with immature Northern Harrier by Atul Sharma

Can I bring my pet dog on this tour?

Dogs are permitted on private tours but cannot be let out of the car when we are near cranes. Dogs are not permitted on group tours.

Gift Certificates Available Now

This tour makes an excellent birthday gift, anniversary gift, graduation gift, father's day gift or special gift for a birder, birdwatcher or anyone interested in nature.

Click here for information about purchasing a gift certificate for this tour or any of our other tours.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: Anyone who books any whooping crane tour during 2023 is eligible for a 20% discount off any Prairie Lakes Birding tour bookings between October 25 and November 7, 2023.

Other Tours

Other Tours and Workshops: Click here to see a complete list of our upcoming tours and workshops.

Multiple Tours Discount

Can't decide which tour to take?

Check out our multiple tours discount described here.

How to get to Saskatoon

Air: Saskatoon International Airport (YXE) is served by Air Canada, Westjet, and their partners United and Delta.

Train: Saskatoon's  Train Station is served by Via Rail's Canadian train serving Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper and Vancouver.

Bus: Saskatoon - Edmonton and Saskatoon - Regina bus service

Car: Saskatoon is located on Canada's Yellowhead cross-country highway plus 6 other major highways connecting with all cities in Canada and USA. If you drive, you do not need to rent a car for our tours.

Entering Canada

CLICK HERE for government regulations for entering Canada.
My recent fully vaccinated international clients tell me there are no significant delays at the border provided they have fully completed the ArriveCan app in advance.

STAN SHADICK:  Guide for Saskatoon Custom Bird Tours

Stan Shadick - Tour Leader

TOUR GUIDE: Your guide has many years of experience finding and observing birds throughout Saskatchewan. For over 30 years, Stan Shadick has been a birding guide for nature tours around Saskatchewan and other parts of the country that have been organized by Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, Saskatoon Custom Bird Tours, Nature Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan Extension Division.

Stan is past president of Nature Saskatchewan as well as past president and current field trip chairman for the Saskatoon Nature Society. He is a co-editor of the reference publication “Birds of the Saskatoon Area” and contributed significantly to the recently published “Birds of Saskatchewan”.

Stan was a regional coordinator for the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas project and helps with their bird identification workshops. He regularly contributes sightings to e-bird and currently holds the e-bird record for the most bird species seen in Saskatchewan.

Stan volunteers his time leading Saskatoon Custom Bird Tours so that all proceeds benefit the work of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.