It’s about that time again. Time for the Sandhill Cranes to make their appearance in the field off Brinkman Road. I spotted these three magnificent birds yesterday, about the same time as last year’s appearance in that same spot. We also saw one in Martha Jamieson’s field off Blue Water Road in May of last year.
I wonder if Sandhill Cranes return to the same spot every year, and whether these Brinkman Road cranes are the same ones I saw last year.
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They’re definitely a study in opposites, both gangly and graceful, quiet at times and displaying a high-pitched cry at other times. They’re fascinating to watch as they pick their way slowly across the meadow, their slate-gray bodies adorned with a speckled bustle.
Here are a few Sandhill Crane tidbits I learned from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds:
- Their unique tone – a rolling, trumpeting sound – is a product of anatomy. They have long windpipes that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness.
- They’re known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance.
- They mate for life – which can mean two decades or more – and stay with their mates year-round. Youngsters stick close to their parents for nine or ten months after hatching.
- The earliest Sandhill Crane fossil, estimated to be 2.5 million years old, was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida.
- The oldest Sandhill Crane on record was at least 36 years, seven months old. Originally banded in Wyoming in 1973, it was found in New Mexico in 2010.
According to the Michigan Audubon Society, these birds were saved from extinction and have become “a Michigan environmental success story.” They also migrate south for the winter.
Thank you to these Sandhill Cranes for being our Photo of the Day.