Sandhill Cranes

by Em
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In February and March I could hear Sandhill Cranes flying over our house in the city almost daily. Occasionally now I see a pair fly over our backyard without making any sounds, but they are busy nesting and finding food for youngsters this time of year, so if I want to see one close up I need to drive on rural roads (you can often see them in cornfields in the early spring and fall) or visit a wetland or marsh or nature preserve.

Over the weekend a friend and I went birding in a state park in our county. Several cranes were trumpeting so loudly at times that we had trouble hearing the other birds that were singing! These birds can be heard from as much as 2 miles away, so you can imagine how loud the sound is when you’re standing close to one.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and they can live for 25 to 30 years. They don’t pair up until about their 4th year of life. Prior to that, young males will hang out in a “bachelor flock”.

A photo of a Sandhill Crane pair in a marsh

The female lays an average of 3 eggs, and the chicks that survive (it’s a rough world out there!) will stay with their parents for 9 or 10 months.

Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous and prefer things like seeds and plant tubers, but they’ll also eat small mammals and reptiles.

A photo of a Sandhill Crane standing in a cattail marsh

Here’s a fun fact about Sandhill Cranes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and are even capable of swimming.”

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