Sandhill cranes nest here in a swath of land about 100 miles wide, beginning in the metro area and moving northwest.

Bugling describes their calls, but not adequately. There is no other sound in the wild like it; no other call is so distinctly wild.

Cranes migrate to the southwest in winter. They return in April to nest in isolated open marshes or bogs or extensive grasslands.

Two eggs are laid after pairing that involves courtship dancing. Incubation takes 30 days. Chicks are precocial, walking and even swimming after only 8 hours.

Sandhill cranes are omnivorous, their diet including berries and snakes. Parents teach the young about diet. They will feed heavily on grain left in fields after harvest. Fall observations are often of cranes in ag fields.

Read Jim Williams' birding blog at startribune.com/wingnut.