While conducting bird surveys for the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas I was somewhat surprised to find several family groups of Sandhill Cranes in northern Pine County. I knew they bred here but didn’t realize they were so common in this part of the state. Rounding a corner on a rural dirt road I surprised a family of cranes…two adults and two “colts” (the name for young cranes). The colts disappeared but the parents kept a close eye on me until I moved along. They are incredibly cool birds. The Greater Sandhill Crane (the subspecies in our part of the world) can stand nearly 5 feet tall with a wingspan of over six feet. Their loud rattling call can be heard for great distances.

Note the dirt hanging from one of the crane’s bill; This is from foraging in the mud for frogs, mice, snakes, plant tubers, corn, etc.

Canon 7D, 400mm f5.6 handheld from car window.