Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bird Memories: Sandhill Crane, The Elegant Bird

Driving north across the eastern half of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) on Interstate-75, I can recall the southern rocky cliff shores of this great lake shifting to flatter rolling plains inland.  While the land and climate are not supportive of most agricultural crops Michigan is known for, the U.P. is heavily forested and the source of a logging industry that dates back to the mid to late 1800s.  The U.P.’s eastern half also contains many swampy and tall grassy habitats providng homes for a diverse range of wildlife.
Sandhill Cranes prefer flat open fields (photo: Gay Schroer)

On what is a rather monotonous stretch of driving for the average individual, I had a very close encounter with a native bird species.  I was driving south toward home during a college break, when, quite casually, the tall gangly form of a Sandhill Crane entered the road after leaving a section of tall grass.  I swerved around the crane in plenty of time, of course, and the Sandhill Crane carried on in its stroll unperturbed.  Just goes to show you deer aren’t the only large animal you need to watch out for on the road!

An adult Sandhill Crane (photo: wikipedia) 
Sandhill Cranes (Grus Canadensis) are a heron-size species with a height upwards of four feet and weighing as much as ten pounds.  They have a larger body tapering off to a long slender neck and small head.  Atop their head is a red patc, and their body is mostly slate gray with an overlay of reddish-brown on their upper body.  The crane’s long legs are black.

The long and slender body of the cranes creates a gangly gracefulness in its movements.  During the breeding season, the male dances elaborately to impress his desired female.  The courting male will stretch and raise its wings, bob and bow its head, and jump up and down.

These elegant birds live in open habitats of prairies, grasslands, and wetlands during the breeding season, while spending the winter near deeper waters.  They probe through shallow waters and soft ground with their long beaks for seeds, grains, berries, insects, small reptiles, amphibians, mammals and nestling birds.

Two Sandhill Cranes foraging in a grassy field (photo: wikipedia) 
The Sandhill Crane is known for its trumpet-like rolling call.  The call is loud enough to be heard from miles away when they gather into very large flocks (tens of thousands) for migration.  To hear the Sandhill Crane’s vocalizations Click Here 

If you would like to learn more about Sandhill Cranes, come visit the World Bird Sanctuary to talk to our naturalists and meet our resident Sandhill Cranes, Shawnee and Menomenee, which live on our display line.

WBS’s resident Sandhill Cranes, Shawnee & Menomenee (photo: Gay Schroer) 
As with all of our resident animals, Shawnee and Menomenee are available for adoption through our Adopt A Bird program.  To adopt Shawnee or Menomenee Click Here.

Submitted by Jessica Bunke, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

No comments: