The International Crane Foundation, located in Baraboo, houses a few birds of any given crane species like the Red-crowned crane you just saw and heard, but just down the road, hundreds of native Sandhill Cranes gather on their migration path.

They’re headed down from Northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Canada, and they use Baraboo as a waypoint on their path down South.

Anne Lacy, a Crane Research Coordinator with the Foundation, says the Cranes could be here for a while, depending on the weather.

“If it snows, and the fields are covered with snow, the next favorable weather pattern, so a strong North wind, they will leave.  If the river freezes up, and that safe roosting area is taken away from them, they will also leave as soon as possible,” she said.

She says that the birds could stay in Southern Wisconsin until Christmas if the weather holds up.

She added, “As long as that river is open, they will stay here, because why go further south when everything that meets their needs right here have been met?”

Seeing crane migration through Wisconsin was almost a thing of the past, however.  It was once thought that there could be as few as 100 cranes in all of Wisconsin.

“The fact that they’ve recovered, at least in my profession as a wildlife biologist, is one of the great success stories of the 20th century,” UW-Madison Professor Emeritus of Conservation Stanley Temple.

Late Conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote that he thought Sandhill Cranes would one day no longer inhabit Baraboo or Wisconsin, but the state’s population today might be between 20 and 30 thousand.

“I think Aldo Leopold would be shocked to see how many of the Sandhill Cranes are now using the land that he thought he would never see or hear Sandhill Cranes using again in his lifetime,” Lacy said.

The cranes flock to the area for access to farmland and the Wisconsin River, ICF Sandhill Crane Project Manager Andy Gossens said.

“It’s a pretty big river-  lots of sandbars in the river.  It’s a pretty shallow river so it’s a perfect roosting location for them,” he said.

So if you’re in Baraboo in the next couple of weeks, find some farmland and you’re likely to see some pretty interesting birds.

“The behavior that they display is pretty interesting to me.  They’re pretty special birds, I would say,” Gossens said.

 

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