In the nineteenth century, Sandhill Cranes Grus canadensis were abundant migrants and common summer residents in the lush Wisconsin wetlands and marshes, but by the mid-1930s persecution, unlimited hunting and habitat destruction had taken their toll and there were only an estimated 25 breeding pairs remaining in the state and less than 1,000 in North America.
In 1973, a University of Wisconsin Stevens Point study estimated that the crane population had expanded to 850 and they were removed from Wisconsin's endangered species list. Today, there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 breeding pairs thriving in the state.
Some day, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geological time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward from the great marsh. High out of the clouds will fall the sound of hunting horns, the baying of the phantom pack, the tinkle of little bells, and then a silence never to be broken, unless perchance in some far pasture of the Milky Way.
Newly hatched sandhill chicks wear fuzzy auburn top knots that glow warmly in the summer sun.
A few eager early birds return in late February after wintering in Florida and southern Georgia. Most fly in on freshening southern winds between the spring storms of March and April.
With a wingspan of five to seven feet the great effort of first flight takes place between 67 to 75 days of age.
with a salute to cranes everywhere