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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Crane Your Neck And Look To the Sky!

<y not feel like it to you, but out in the skies, there are some beginning to celebrate the arrival of spring. If you happen to be out amidst the melting snow, take a moment and look up into the sky or out into the fields. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of a long neck, long legs, and long angular wings; the sandhill cranes have arrived. Few birds in the midwest have captured as many imaginations as the sandhill crane.

With its red-capped forehead, wingspan up to seven feet long, and long thin legs, the crane has been described as both handsome and ungainly. In the air, these birds look almost prehistoric – and that’s because they are. In fact, today’s sandhill cranes are almost identical to a ten-million year old crane fossil found in Nebraska, making cranes perhaps the oldest bird species in the world.

These cranes fly north in the spring – sometimes flying as much as 400 miles in a day – to breed at low latitudes throughout the northern hemisphere including in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. Right now, these sandhill cranes are on the lookout for a cozy wetland to mate, create a nest of grass, lay just a couple eggs, and rear their young.

Although the Arb has been bypassed thus far by searching parents, the hope that some crane couple might one day settle in and nest is not impossible. Indeed, cranes have nested within just ten miles of the Arb and have even been seen poking around Kettle Hole Marsh. Perhaps, as the prairies in the Arb continue to expand and mature, our own backyard could become a chosen nursery – or at least hotel – for these living legends.

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