Before leaving the Willcox area, we want to highlight an annual area event called "Wings Over Willcox." Check out this website for updated information, www.wingsoverwillcox.com/, but this is usually a late January/early February celebration. It is very cold at sunrise in these barren fields around Willcox so if you choose to go, dress wisely.
The photos here belong to Robert Shantz. We thank him for sharing with us his pictures. Hope you enjoy our story.
The small towns of Arizona have many unique and fun celebrations and Wings Over Willcox would certainly be at the top of that list. The National Geographic Society ranks this Arizona avian gathering of Sandhill Cranes one of North America’s two greatest wildlife events, sharing the spotlight with the great caribou migration in Alaska.
In an area defined by the Dragoon Mountains to the west and the Dos Cabezas Mountains to the east, a natural bird sanctuary is created which attracts over 500 species of birds that spend their winter in this Cochise County avian paradise. It is within this natural corridor that the annual Wings Over Willcox celebration occurs.
Last year over 36,000 cranes visited the 60-square mile preserve owned and operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department who flood a portion of the land each year to create a 6-inch deep pool that the Sandhill Cranes find just perfect for winter roosting.
The highlight of a visit to the Wings Over Willcox celebration is the pre-dawn guided tours to the crane roosting fields. Here, dressed in cloths created for mid-January in Chicago, the curious and enthusiast people wait for sunrise and the Sandhill “liftoff.”
In a moment, thousands of birds, with wingspans up to 6-feet and weighing up to 14 pounds, take flight. The sight and sound of this morning leap into the air is what attracts thousands of nature lovers to Willcox each year.
Once airborne, the cranes quickly line into a V-formation to pass another day flying from harvested cornfield to cornfield in search of food. Their daily adventure delight and mesmerize onlookers who just can’t seem to get enough of these long-legged, longneck-flying wonders.
The Sandhill Cranes will hang around the Willcox area until early March when the lengthening days will again make them take flight to their summer artic breeding grounds. Some of these Arizona winter bird visitors are known to migrate as far as Siberia.
Wings Over Willcox organizers promise that this year’s event will be better than ever before. New tours dealing with astronomy and wildlife of the Chiricahua Mountains will be offered. Seminars will be presented with topics ranging from the Arizona jaguar to wildlife tracking to rainwater harvesting and more. For those who love nature and the out-of-doors, Wings Over Willcox is an ideal opportunity to get out and discover another special part of our Arizona!