A majestic bird that is a delight to observe.
image by paoniabirds at photobucket
One of the most stately birds that flies is the sandhill crane and it may be the oldest known surviving bird species dating back to the Miocene Age. A 10 million year old sandhill crane fossil was found in Nebraska seems to back up that claim.
There are two types of sandhills: those that migrate and those that do not. Florida sandhills, with which I am most acquainted, are the stay-at-home variety. Migrating routes for others extend all the way from the Arctic to Puerto Rico.
Sandhills grow from 3 to 5 feet in height, weight between 7 and 14 pounds and have a 5 to 6 foot wingspan. The males are somewhat larger than the females. The chicks are called colts. Migratory birds are mostly varying shades of gray with red crowns and adults have white cheeks. Reddish brown coloration on these cranes are the result of feeding in iron-rich soil, then preening. In fades during the winter. Florida cranes tend to retain a sienna coloration atop the gray.
The preferred habitat is open fresh-water wetlands where the female makes her nest as a low mound from the dominant vegetation in the area. Their diet consists of plant life, grain, insects, worms, snakes, frogs, and mice. Their large beaks are capable of digging deeply into the soil to extract seeds. Instances have been recorded in the midwest where large flocks of migrating sandhills have descended on newly planted corn fields and caused such devastation the entire acreage had to be replanted.
The female lays two eggs each year and both parents share in the brooding duties. The colts hatch in 29-32 days and fledge at about 70 days, however they remain with the parents till spring–about 10 months. Only one of the colts of migrating cranes generally survives to make the migration.
image by morris001 at photobucket