Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.
Migration: Rare migrant throughout the Valley, locally common at Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Sandhill cranes have been observed in Washington County on four occasions: 31 March 1967, 9 April 1970 and 1971, and 20 November 1970. Three records exist for St. Croix County: 17 April 1947, 4 May 1974, and 30 October 1977. There is one record (29 April 1950) for Polk County.
The most reliable data on migration is from Crex Meadows, where the average date of spring arrival is 4 April (earliest-25 March 1976). Peak spring concentration occurs about 20 April. During fall migration, the first migrants arrive in early September and peak abundance is 15 October to 1 November. During this period, concentrations of 150 to 200 individuals commonly occur on the refuge portion of Crex Meadows; high counts were 350 on 19 October 1975 and 420 on 30 October 1977. Departure of fall migrants occurs soon after freeze-up; the latest was on 18 November 1962.
Nesting Season Distribution: The first reported nesting in the Valley occurred in the Kohler-Peet area north of Crex Meadows along the St. Croix River in 1903. Roberts (1932) mentioned a local farmer reported sandhill cranes nesting in Burnett County from 1904 through 1930. Recent summer observations indicate that cranes still probably nest at Kohler-Peet; however, nests or young have not been observed.
Currently, sandhill cranes are fairly common during the nesting season at Crex Meadows. Recent surveys indicate that 30 to 40 pairs are nesting at that location. Elsewhere, Green and Janssen (1975) cited a 1950 nest record near Beroun, Pine County. Johnson (1976) reported breeding season sandhill cranes in Thunder Meadow and the St. Croix River marshes, Pine County, and in the extensive marshes of the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, Chisago County, during 1974-75. Henderson (1978) showed that breeding season sandhill cranes occurred in three Pine County townships: T. 42 N., R. 16 W.; T. 41 N., R. 13 W.; and T. 38 N., R. 17 W.
Habitat: Breeding sandhill cranes are typically associated with large expanses of Northern Sedge Meadow characterized by tussock sedge, bristly sedge, fox sedge, bluejoint grass, rattlesnake grass, marsh cinquefoil, and marsh bellflower.