Species Spotlight: Sandhill Crane
Being the most common crane in the world does not make the Sandhill Crane any less a wonder to see. A large and gray with a brilliant crimson crown, the Sandhill Crane is a spectacular bird–growing to just under four feet tall!
Migrating in large numbers, Sandhills often congregate en masse in southern states. In the photo above, tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather at a desert oasis known as Whitewater Draw in southeastern Arizona. Here, they gather in large numbers, feeding, practicing their courting rituals, and “growing up,” if you will. There’s a good mix of adults and juvenile birds. In the winter months, breeding pairs meet up with non-breeders in these massive groups before migrating north again in the spring.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and stay together year round. Both parents will incubate the young, and the male has the responsibility of protecting the nest. Young will stay with their parents for 9 or so months after hatching, learning all they need to survive and migrating south with them in large groups. However, they are ready to leave the nest only 8 short hours after hatching, even having the ability to swim. In the photo above, you’ll see a family unit of two adults and two juveniles. While the juveniles are full size, the adults are discernible by the light patch on their cheeks, underneath their crimson crowns.
Sandhills use their bills to probe in the mud for food, eating mainly seeds and grains, but may also eat small vertebrates or invertebrates such as amphibians, worms, and mice. In the above photo, a juvenile Sandhill Crane forages for food at the edge of a wetland.
Sandhill Cranes prefer open habitats, so if you go to the right places, they’re not incredibly hard to find. In the spring and summer months, search marshes, bogs, and prairies in your area. Their call is notorious amongst wildlife enthusiasts. A loud, rolling, trumpeting type call, it is hard to miss, and lovely to hear.
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