Birding Thursday: The Sandhill Crane

Birding Thursday: The Sandhill Crane

I got a request from my faithful reader Sarah to do a BT on a migratory bird, so I couldn’t help but choose one of my favorites: The Sandhill Crane!


I have had the good fortune of being able to see these birds in three different places, including California, Texas and Florida, where two of the subspecies are known to populate and are considered endangered. I have also been lucky enough to see them in the company of another endangered crane, the Whooping Crane! Both a site to see for sure!

sandhillcrane6The Whooping Crane is the white bird, surrounded by Sandhill Cranes (Source)

Anyhow, these birds are serious travelers. Not only do they migrate from wintering grounds to breeding grounds and back again every year, but they can come from as far as Siberia to southern araes of the U.S. Now that folks, is a very long way. They also come from places like Alaska and Canada, so not as far, but still. They can fly up to 400 miles a day so maybe it’s not so bad…maybe.


These tall, gray, white and red capped birds have a wingspan of 5-6 feet and stand about 3-4 feet high. They are like many of the wading birds you see, hanging out regularly in marshes, wetlands, meadows and grasslands. They are most commonly known for being seen along the Nebraska Platte River, a proposed site for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which has causes for so many concerns I can’t count them all on my fingers and toes. Anyways, they are probe feeders, using their beaks to plunge into the water for anything from grains, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates and vertebrates.


Unlike many birds, the pairs you find are bound together for life. They mate and travel together throughout all their years, which on average is about 20 years. They breed in areas like the one pictured above, their nests floating on the water and lightly attached to something to anchor it in place. The female will lay two eggs which are incubated by both her and the male, whom also has the responsibility of protecting the nest from predators.


Is that chick not the cutest thing ever!? I think a lot of baby birds are quite ugly looking, but this one is the exception. ¬†That and baby Roseate Spoonbills…those are to die for chicks!

Sandhill Crane chicks typically stay with their parents for up to 10 months, learning all the ins and outs about their environments and migrating. No one better to learn from than Mom and Dad, right?


So there is your Birding Thursday for this week! I apologize for it being a day late, work things and stuff got in the way, but it is here! So thanks Sarah for asking for a migratory bird, I forgot how much I missed seeing these birds when I worked in Florida! Now if only I could find the pictures I actually took of the birds…

Suggestions for next week?!

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3 Responses to Birding Thursday: The Sandhill Crane

  1. B. William says:

    Love it. These are one of my favorites too. If you ever need any photos, just let me know. I love Birding Thursdays!

  2. Maggie says:

    SANDHILL CRANES!! :D Ok, so I’m a bit excited about them. There have been reports of a few birds already back around the North Platte, but my co-worker and I went looking for them on Wednesday when we arrived in Kearney (home of the annual crane festival), and no luck. I’ll be back here in March for the Rivers and Wildlife Conference, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing hundreds of them once again!

    P.S. You can come visit me in late March and I’ll take you to see many, many cranes. And eagles. And hawks. And more cranes. Oh, and you’ll get to see me too.

  3. I love cranes. They look so elegant. And that chick is seriously cute!

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