Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Iowa
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Iowa Project

Developing capture techniques and monitoring the movement of sandhill cranes breeding in Iowa

October 2019 - December 2025


Participating Agencies

  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Sandhill cranes (Antigone canidensis) were extirpated from Iowa in the late 19th century as a result of habitat loss and over-harvest. Nearly 100 years passed before sandhill cranes began recolonizing Iowa, with the first breeding effort since 1894 documented in 1992 (Dinsmore 1994). In recent years successful breeding has been confirmed in 29 counties and cranes have been documented in 62 of Iowa’s 99 counties (Iowa Department of Natural Resources unpublished data).

Our understanding of cranes in modern-day Iowa is limited due to the relatively recent and un-assisted recolonization of cranes in Iowa. Information regarding the population such as trends, dynamics, and affiliations consist of anecdotal reports or are entirely unknown. As this population grows there is increased interest from a wide array of stakeholders including conservation managers, bird watchers, private landowners, agriculture producers and hunters. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the Iowa crane population, such as the population affiliation, population size, and habitat use. We are working cooperatively with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This information will greatly improve our understanding of how sandhill cranes use the modern day Iowa landscape, define suitable habitat for cranes and provide evidence on the migration routes and wintering grounds of Iowa’s breeding cranes.