The sandhill crane is the world's only crane species that is not endangered. This is the result of 20 years of conservation and protection efforts throughout North America. Wisconsin is home to a steady population of the greater sandhill crane subspecies, which consists of up to 100,000 birds. Their height can reach 6 ft (1.36 m) and their weight is around 10 lb (4.5 kg).
Wisconsin sandhill cranes return home from their wintering grounds in Florida in March. In April and May, they lay their eggs, and hatchlings appear after about a month. In the fall, adult birds and their colts congregate in large groups to travel back south. This is the best time to spot them and see their peculiar dances.
Every fall, up to 10,000 sandhill cranes gather on islands and along the banks of the Wisconsin River. They feed on leftover corn from farm fields, rest and gain some weight before flying south. The largest groups of cranes can be spotted at select Wisconsin wetlands such as Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and White River Marsh State Wildlife Area on the Fox River. There is also a designated Sandhill State Wildlife Area, established 40 years ago to save Wisconsin sandhill cranes from hunters. Other crane sanctuaries include Horicon National Wildlife Refuge near Mayville, Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge in Lake Michigan, and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.