GCBO's December Bird of the Month
Sandhill Crane
Geography/Habitat :

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) is a common to uncommon
migrant found throughout much of Texas. However, it is very rare in the Piney Woods region. There are two main population centers during the winter. One group being centered in the High and Rolling Plains in the northwest and the second being along the Coastal Prairies. There are individual records of lingering birds into the summer and a few records of birds remaining through the summer. They tend to arrive in early October and the majority depart by mid-March. Four subspecies have been recorded in the state, but only three are still found today. Wintering Sandhill Cranes roost on shallow lakes or rivers at night and spend the day in irrigated croplands, pastures, grasslands, or wetlands. Their diet is heavy in seeds and cultivated grains, but may also include berries, tubers, snails, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals.

The Sandhill Crane is a member of the Gruidae Family (Cranes) and is one of three crane species that occurs in North America, including Texas. The other two species are the native Whooping Crane and the occasional vagrant Common Crane, who sometimes visits North America from Eurasia. The Sandhill Crane is identified by its all gray body, long neck, red lores and crown, white cheeks, and black bill. The legs are long and dark gray. In flight, the primaries are dark. The juvenile is a pale gray-brown overall and lacks the heads markings. They can be quite tall with a body length between 34 and 48 inches. The wingspan can be up to 90 inches. Typical weight is ~10 lb or ~4,000 grams.  They make a loud, resonant, wooded rattle call “Kar-r-r-r-o-o-o” that can be heard from quite a long distance.

Interesting Facts:
   The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound whose unique tone is a product of anatomy: Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness.
   Sandhill Cranes are noted for their elaborate courtship displays. Two displays are used to form mating pairs while three other displays occur only between mates and serve to maintain the pair bond.
   A crane fossil approximately ten million years old was found in Nebraska and is structurally identical to the modern Sandhill Crane, making it the oldest known bird species still surviving.
   They frequently preen with vegetation and mud stained with iron oxide resulting in reddish brown color rather than their natural gray.
   A group of cranes has many collective nouns, including a “construction”, “dance”, “sedge”, “siege”, and “swoop” of cranes.
   Although some start breeding at two years of age, Sandhill Cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. They mate for life—which can mean two decades or more—and stay with their mates year-round. Juveniles stick close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching.
   Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and are even capable of swimming.
   The oldest Sandhill Crane on record was at least 36 years, 7 months old. Originally banded in Wyoming in 1973, it was found in New Mexico in 2010.

To download Joe Fischer's photo of this cool bird, click HERE

To donate to us and our conservation work with our new, streamlined system click HERE