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Record breaking number of Sandhill Cranes observed

Sandhill Cranes are making a comeback. Here they appear to be dancing.Photo by Tom Hodgson, courtesy of Michigan Audobon Society.

On Monday, November 19, 2012 history was made at Michigan Audubon’s Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary in Jackson County, when 8,177 Sandhill Cranes were counted breaking the previous record from November 5, 2012 of 7,483. This is the largest number of Greater Sandhill Cranes ever recorded at the sanctuary.

These numbers are promising for crane conservation in Michigan considering they were nearly extirpated by the turn of the last century due to market hunting and habitat loss. Sandhill Cranes, although experiencing a remarkable comeback, still face challenges such as habitat degradation, an increase in some natural predators and low reproduction rates. But the birds are survivalists, learning to cope with the changing environment and evading predators such as coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and even modern man.

Sandhill Cranes in cut corn. Photo by Tom Hodgson, courtesy of Michigan Audobon Society.

With more sanctuaries and wildlife refuges to protect and conserve Sandhill Cranes their low reproduction rates aren’t as hindering as they were 75 to 100 years ago. Still, Sandhill Cranes only lay two eggs per mating season; rebuilding the population takes time but conversationalists are finally starting to see their hard work pay off. Sandhill Crane numbers are now in the hundred thousand’s compared to 100 years ago when the population was only a few hundred.

Don’t miss your chance to see these majestic creatures before they fly south for warmer weather and a more abundant food supply. The Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary is located at 9066 Seymour Road, Pleasant Lake, MI 49272. For directions and additional information on where to view cranes visit www.michiganaudubon.org.

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