November 2012 Bird Photo of the Month

A touching moment © San Fried
Florida Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)

A touching moment: Ms. Sandhill Crane watches over her offspring. Photographer Sam Fried writes,  “A pair of sandhills usually nests on a nearby small island, allowing close proximity without bothering the birds at all. Quietly, I spent many hours watching the pair incubate the eggs, the chicks hatch, the adults feeding the young and then the little ones getting large enough to feed by themselves and gain enough size to allow them to wander off with their parents.”  At pond’s edge, using his long 500mm/4 at 5.6 lens and Canon 7D, ISO 400, Fried captured the cranes bonding.

Often nonchalantly walking down our streets, Sandhill Cranes seem confident around humans because they can intimidate attackers by vaulting into the air with 6.5 foot wings spread, loud hissing accompanied by frontal kicks and strong bill jabs.  Four-feet tall, predominantly gray, with red forehead and fluffy rear, some cranes have rusty feathers on neck and body, created when grooming by rubbing iron-rich soil onto their plumage as far as their long bills or feet can reach. 

While family group members forage for aquatic-plants, seeds, insects, invertebrates, and rodents, one crane is always vigilantly watching for threats.  Flying together, with wings slowly flapping and necks extended, pairs trumpet loudly, synchronously alternating, “Rrrahnnn!” “Rrrahnnn!” These familiar, distinct voices can be heard from afar.

In November, we have an influx of migratory Sandhill Cranes staying in these warmer climes until February. Then, gathering in flocks, they catch thermals to aid flying north to join thousands of other Cranes for elaborate courtship dancing in Jasper Pulaski State Wildlife area in Indiana. In surrounding cornfield stubble, storing energy enables them to fly on to Canada to breed.  However, we have a native subspecies that breeds predominantly in Central Florida and stays year-round.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon

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