Volunteers rescue Sandhill Crane with plastic around its beak

Volunteers with the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors captured a Sandhill Crane in Evanston, helping it remove the plastic on its beak that had been preventing it from eating.

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A Sandhill Crane with plastic on its beak was rescued in Evanston Nov. 19.

Courtesy of Scott Judd

A Sandhill Crane whose beak was being held shut by a piece of plastic was rescued from Evanston on Friday after a daylong search by the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors that started in Rogers Park.

The group is made up of about 200 volunteers who field calls and tend to birds who are injured or dead.

Shana Conner, a Rogers Park resident and volunteer with the group, took it upon herself to seek out the Sandhill Crane after getting a call that it was in her area on Thanksgiving. 

“I was worried about this bird all night because I was like ‘it’s going to starve to death, and I couldn’t find it,’” Conner said. 

But through the power of social media and alert neighbors, the Sandhill Crane was located Friday afternoon. Conner, who was in the midst of driving another bird to safety, rushed to Evanston while two other volunteers attempted to capture the bird.

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The Sandhill Crane flew over two miles from where it was originally spotted in Rogers Park before being rescued in Evanston.

Courtesy of Scott Judd

The bird didn’t give up without a fight — Conner said they struggled to net the bird, but when they did, Conner grabbed it and pulled the plastic off its beak, allowing it to finally open and close its mouth for the first time in days.

“Shana jumps in, grabs it by the throat, contains the head, and immediately pulls off the bottle cap that had really wedged itself in there — she had to really wrestle to get it off,” said Scott Judd, one of the volunteers that helped Conner rescue the bird.

He said although the bird didn’t make the rescue easy, it seemed relieved to be saved.

“It had been wrestling and resisting and looked like it wanted to get away,” Judd said. But when the bird got inside the cage, it laid down, Judd said. “It was exhausted; it probably hadn’t eaten in days.”

The bird was brought to Willowbrook Wildlife Hospital for treatment and as of Nov. 28 is still alive and being treated for emaciation and beak wounds.

Judd said he suspected the Sandhill Crane they rescued was a part of the 20,000 Sandhill Cranes he witnessed flying over Chicago on Nov. 22, just days before its capture. The Cranes rarely stop in Chicago, typically only flying over the city on their way to warmer weather, Judd said.

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Over 20,000 Sandhill Cranes migrated over LaBagh Woods in Chicago Nov. 22.

Courtesy of Scott Judd

Conner said she hopes the image of the Sandhill Crane with the plastic restricting its beak encourages people to be more mindful of their garbage.

“That harmless little cap was probably in the grass somewhere where this crane was just trying to live its life and eat its food, and it almost killed it,” Conner said.

Annette Prince, the director of CBCM, said the group fields over 10,000 calls a year. This story is an example of what can be done when volunteers and residents work together to rescue birds, Prince said.

“By building this network of people, we have the means to bring help to these birds so they can continue to be amazing parts of our world that we enjoy and love so much,” Prince said.

People in the Chicagoland area who witness a bird in distress or find a bird that has died can call the CBCM hotline at 773-988-1867.

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