CHICAGO — Sandhill cranes have made a widespread regional recovery and have been spotted more frequently in northern Illinois.

The cranes, which nearly disappeared from the Midwest, have returned by the thousands, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Researchers said the cranes are spending more time closer to Chicago, including in Lake County.

“It’s an incredible recovery. It’s one of the best Midwest bird stories,” said Rich Beilfuss, president and CEO of the International Crane Foundation. “They’re back in people’s lives in a way we really haven’t seen in a while.”

Two dozen breeding pair of sandhill cranes lived in Wisconsin in the 1930s. Researchers estimate that the upper Midwest population is somewhere between 65,000 and 95,000.

Scientists said the biggest factor in the cranes’ population is the conservation and restoration of wetlands, marshes and prairies, which is their preferred habitat for nesting and breeding. Some scientists predict that sandhill cranes are on track for a similar recovery to the Canada goose.

“They’ve made this existential decision to live with people, rather than avoid them,” Beilfuss said.

The population recovery has accelerated in the last decade, growing at a rate of 4.4 percent per year, according to a coordinated fall survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Information from: Chicago Tribune,

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