Sandhill crane family calling Driftless Area Wetlands Centre home

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).

A family of sandhill cranes has taken up residence near the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette, representing the first nesting pair the facility has ever had. One of the two colts is pictured feeding with a parent at the wetland. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

The sandhill cranes favor the Wetlands Centre’s nature playground areas. The property’s mixture of wetland and grassland makes it a “really good place for them,” said Wetlands Centre Director Alicia Mullarkey.

The cranes are recognizable for their long legs and necks, gray and tan bodies and bright red crowns.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

A family of sandhill cranes has taken up residence near the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette, representing the first nesting pair the facility has ever had.

Once common dwellers in Iowa wetlands, sandhill crane populations waned in the late 1800s due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. The first breeding pair returned to the state in 1992, and, today, more than 20 Iowa counties have documented nesting sites.

“The adults have been here since spring, around April,” said Wetlands Centre Director Alicia Mullarkey, avidly watching the cranes through a spotting scope set up outside the nature facility. 

The sight wasn’t completely unusual. A pair of the cranes—recognizable for their long legs and necks, gray and tan bodies and bright red crowns—was briefly spotted on the grounds last year. This time, however, the birds stuck around.

“They would spend time in the wetland and in the grass. It’s really a good place for them,” said Mullarkey. The birds are omnivores, and the Wetlands Centre property offers a multitude of seeds, insects, crayfish and frogs for their meals.

Eventually, she and another Wetlands Centre employee, Jan Stavroplus, decided to follow the cranes.

“We thought they might be nesting,” quipped Mullarkey. 

Sure enough, while Mullarkey was walking one day earlier this month, “the parents started trumpeting at me. Then, all of a sudden, a baby walked across.”

The youngster, called a colt, was tan and fuzzy. A few days later, staff were excited to spot an equally-cute sibling. 

“Typically, they have two eggs,” said Mullarkey, “and they can hatch at different times.”

Now, the four sandhill cranes can be spotted almost daily. They favor the Wetlands Centre’s nature playground area.

“The feed all day,” said Mullarkey, “even in the pouring rain.”

The parents are cautious, watching closely for potential threats. 

They have reason to be. Mullarkey said colt survivorship is just 30 percent. Even within the Marquette city limits, the babies could fall victim to coyotes, fox or birds of prey.

She hopes they’ll continue to stay safe and call the Wetlands Centre home: “It’s fun to have them here.”

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (51 votes)