Photo by Louis Hoglund

A harvested field of corn was a stop-off point for this flock of sandhill cranes, on county Road 4, about two miles east of Highway 59. The birds created an almost prehistoric silhouette in the early morning mist Sept. 24. 

The sandhill crane was considered rare by about 1900. It has been estimated that only 10-25 pairs were nesting in Minnesota in the mid-194’s. Since then sandhill crane populations have made a steady recovery. 

Spotting the birds through the morning fog was Matt Strand, while on the way to his shop, Strand Ace Hardware, in Pelican Rapids, who phoned the Pelican Rapids Press. Though a large bird, they were initially difficult to spot because of the low-hanging fog and mist. 

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) were common residents south and west of Minnesota’s forested region until the mid-1870s. Ecologically speaking, cranes employ a “slow” life-history strategy: they are long-lived, defer breeding for several years after fledging, exhibit very low reproductive rates and experience high annual survival. As a result, crane populations are more vulnerable to exploitation than species exhibiting “faster” life histories. Therefore, it’s not surprising that rapid human expansion in the 1880s and settlement of Minnesota’s prairie region resulted in the extirpation of cranes in much of their former range, reports the Minnesota DNR.