Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 43

ADULT sandhill cranes are 12-15 pounds and have a distinct red patch on their forehead and crown. Males are slightly larger. Their wingspan is about seven feet. The mostly grayish bird stands at about the same height as a great blue heron (roughly 40 inches) and may be seen foraging for everything from worms and insects to mice and waste grains in agricultural settings. The sandhill’s piercing call also is a dead giveaway to its presence and takes a backseat only to its dancing grace during courtship.
Jacob Dingel

than any other bird species. They’ve nested primarily throughout Canada. East of the Mississippi River, they inhabited the Great Lakes in substantial numbers through the 1800s. But unregulated hunting and habitat loss sent the birds into a steep decline. By World War II, only several thousand, it’s believed, remained in all of North America. But since then, thanks to restoration efforts and the bird’s increasing use of agricultural areas, the sandhill has rebounded and actually expanded its range into Pennsylvania and a few other eastern states. “The Great Lakes population went through a historic bottleneck in the 1930s,” explained Matt Hayes of the International Crane Foundation. “We don’t know what their previous numbers were, but we do know they were reduced to about 300. Today there are 50,000 cranes in the Great Lakes; 650,000 globally.”

To learn more about this range expansion, Hayes, accompanied by Andy Gossens from the International Crane Foundation and Hoa Nguyen from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, came to Pennsylvania last June as part of a multistate research project to collect genetic (DNA) samples and other biological information from our sandhill cranes. “Nests are hard to find,” Hayes explained, “even with a helicopter and plenty of help. The birds paint themselves with mud, and when it dries they blend in so well. We try to time our searches to when chicks are five to six weeks old, when they’re easier to handle and band.” Sandhills nest on the ground; nest materials are usually comprised of whatever vegetation is dominant in the wetland area they chose. Normally the female lays two eggs and they hatch in about a month. The young

Contacting the Region Offices
Northwest — 814-432-3187 Southcentral — 814-643-1831 Southwest — 724-238-9523 Northeast — 570-675-1143 Northcentral — 570-398-4744 Southeast — 610-926-3136 TIP Hotline: 1-888-PGC-8001. This number is only for calls concerning illegal killing of endangered species or multiple big game animals. All other calls should be made to the appropriate region number above. JANUARY 2012 43



Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012

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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - 1
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - BB1
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2012 - Cover4
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