Each fall during migration, large flocks of Sandhill Cranes congregate in agricultural fields to glean waste grain. Nearby wetlands, including sandbars on the Wisconsin River, provide safe roost areas for the night. Sandhills are generalists – adapting to a variety of situations for feeding, nesting and roosting. They are more tolerant of human disturbance than our other North American crane species, the Whooping Crane. In rural Sauk County, observing these sizeable flocks from the car is of little consequence to the birds.
Juvenile Sandhills (above) lack the bright red head of the adults.
In an average year the cranes have moved on by mid to late November, but in 2011, Ted and a friend counted more than 5,000 Sandhill Cranes during the Audubon Christmas bird count in December as they flew in to roost on the Wisconsin River.
Photos by Ted Thousand. All rights reserved.