Normally, when I get an issue of National Geographic, while I might be sent dreaming, I rarely have the opportunity to just jump in the car and follow up on a feature article. But then there was the issue where the lead article and cover photo were from the International Crane Foundation (ICF), which is in Wisconsin, just a few hours north of where I live. So the next weekend found me heading northward, to the only place in the world where you can see every species of crane there is.
I had seen the brolga (Australian crane) during my several visits Down Under. The African gray crowned crane was familiar from a number of zoos, but they’re so fabulous looking, it’s always fun seeing them.
African gray crowned cranes
I was familiar with sandhill cranes and whooping cranes, but seeing them up close was grand. Many of the cranes, however, were unfamiliar to me—the demoiselle crane, blue crans, wattled crane, hooded crane, black-necked crane, white-naped crane, saurus crane, and the African black crowned crane, rarer than his gray cousin.
There was a tremendous amount of information available, from guides, bird handlers, and displays. The visit ended up triggering other trips, to places where cranes nest or flyways that they stop during migration.
In addition to the cranes, the ICF has man acres of restored savannah, open wetland, and restored prairie, where one can hike for hours, admiring indigenous trees, flowers, and birds in the wild.
Wild lupines on the ICF prairie
If you’re fortunate enough to be there in the spring, when eggs are hatching, you might get to witness the teaching of chicks to drink and eat. A crane will only hatch one egg, so the staff will rescue the unhatched egg, hatch it in an incubator, and then use a puppet to seem like a parent bird when teaching the chick basic life skills.
Hatchling learns from a hand puppet
The ICF website includes photos, background, and information for visiting. https://www.savingcranes.org/