Past Results and History

Annual Midwest Crane Count

View 2013 Crane Count results for Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin

Although data has been gathered since 1976, Crane Count did not expand to a large scale until 1981, and most of Wisconsin until 1985. Since the early 1980s, Crane Count has expanded to over 100 counties in portions of six states in the upper Midwest (see History of the Crane Count for more details).

Each year, results are typically presented as a grand total, the total for each state, and total for each participating county. What follows here is a broad overview of historic counts. If you are looking for or require more specific information, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Results Publications

2013 Results Publication

2012 Results Publication

2011 Results Publication

2010 Results Publication

Citizen Science in Action:
2010 Annual Midwest Crane Count

2009 Results Publication

2008 Results Publication

2007 Results Publication

2006 Results Publication

1982-2007 Results Compilation



The 2011 Crane Count data provide an estimate of Sandhill Crane densities in Wisconsin and neighboring states. This map shows areas with higher crane densities in dark brown, with lower densities in gold and yellow.

History of the Crane Count

The 1976 Columbia County Crane Survey
In 1976, the Crane Count was merely a survey in Columbia County in search of Sandhill Crane activity. To find what locations the cranes utilized, study their ecology, and later determine a better estimate of their population in the county. The initial survey involved the efforts of less than two hundred volunteers.

The Sandhill Crane Survey
The next couple of years were an effort to improve upon and expand the original survey by increasing involvement and covering a greater area. In 1978 the Crane Count covered five Wisconsin counties - Columbia, Sauk, Dane, Dodge and Jefferson.

The Annual Wisconsin Sandhill Crane Survey
In 1981, organizational efforts on the part of ICF and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association expanded the Crane Count into 34 counties. Procedures for holding the Crane Count were standardized - instead of taking place over a range of dates, the Crane Count took place on one designated day and time. The hopes of expanding Crane Count were to enhance wetland protection (Wisconsin currently retains about half of its historic wetlands) by promoting awareness, document areas where cranes were known to occur, and begin documenting the size of the crane population. 760 volunteers contributed to the effort.

The Annual Wisconsin Sandhill Crane Count
In 1982, the Crane Count expanded to 43 Wisconsin counties, and covered the majority of the Sandhill Crane's range in the state at that time. Between its near statewide scope and now-established consistency, Crane Count became more valuable as a tool to assess the abundance and distribution of Sandhill Cranes, and in the future, long-term trends. The number of volunteer participants more than doubled to 1,617.

In 1985, almost the entire state was covered, with 67 counties joining the effort. Over 2,000 volunteers counted more than 6,000 cranes. Crane Count was presented at the 1985 Crane Workshop as a project involving public participation. As Crane Count became established, its focus was on research, education, and wetland conservation.

The Annual Midwest Sandhill Crane Count
In 1994, Crane Count expanded from a statewide venture into an Upper Midwest one, involving Minnesota and Michigan. Illinois followed in 1995, and Iowa in 1996. As the crane population steadily expands into neighboring states, Crane Count still allows ICF to monitor the abundance, distribution and dispersal of the eastern population of Sandhill Cranes. In 2000, a record total of over 13,500 Sandhill Cranes spread throughout portions of the five states were counted. Crane Count continues to evolve with more than 100 counties participating each year. Currently more than 2,500 volunteer counters participate each year.

The Annual Midwest Crane Count
In 2005, due to promising efforts by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership in the reintroduction of Whooping Cranes into Wisconsin, we renamed the Crane Count to include the Whooping Cranes that now grace our Midwestern landscape.

In 2012, ICF transitioned our Crane Count data collection to eBird, allowing participants to join a growing online birding community, record bird species in addition to cranes, and compare their data with state-wide and national trends.