A crane comeback is building as Minnesota's sandhill numbers soar

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Cranes are in the air in Minnesota. And not just at construction sites.

One of the state's largest birds – the sandhill crane – had all but disappeared from the area by the middle of the last century. But now one of the DNR's longest-tenured wildlife experts is gushing to WCCO about crane sightings unprecedented for Minnesotans of today.

Carrol Henderson, author of a 1970's article entitled "Last Call for Cranes?" tells the station a visit to an Anoka County wildlife area over Memorial Day weekend turned up more than 100 sandhills in an area where he'd never seen more than a few at a time.

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Henderson tells WCCO habitat restoration efforts at Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area have created the open, grassy areas near wetlands that draw young sandhill cranes.

Adult sandhill cranes stand five feet tall with a seven-foot wingspan and have a distinctive bugling call, the DNR says.

The agency estimated that in the 1940s there were only 10 to 25 nesting pairs left in Minnesota, all of them in the state's northwestern corner.

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Blogger Jim Tolstrup notes that in his 1949 book "A Sand County Almanac" naturalist Aldo Leopold forecast the extinction of the sandhill. Tolstrup cites the importance of a Nebraska sanctuary to the bird's resurgence.

The Nature Conservancy calls the spring arrival of sandhill cranes one of the must-see migrations in Minnesota.

Apart from Carlos Avery and the far northwest, another hotspot for the birds in the state is Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near Little Falls, the Conservancy says.

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