Monday, March 12, 2012

Featured Feathered Friend: Sandhill Crane

Today’s FFF is the beloved Sandhill Crane. I was inspired to feature this bird due to the Georgia birders’ excitement following their migration path. Following the Georgia birding listserv, I was flooded with emails all February from the listserv with excited birders shouting out when they saw and/or heard these delightful cranes passing through Georgia. Their distinctive bugling call and large, elegant bodies make them an easy spot.

Sandhill Crane feeding

Notice the elongated wing feathers of the Sandhill Crane. They look like a feather duster.

Close-up of Sandhill Crane foot and legs

Having lived in South Florida, Sandhill Cranes were not uncommon in the area. We almost took it for granted how often we would see these graceful birds since there are resident populations in Florida. Oftentimes these birds are quite friendly and will come right up to you, and many people say they’ll even eat out of your hands! Well, we didn’t have them eating out of our hands, but we did get some great close encounters at times. 

Nesting Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane in the marsh

Nesting Sandhill Crane peaking up from her nest

These set of photos are from one of the first times we encountered Sandhill Cranes. Back when we actually had Spring Break in grad school, we took our first real birding vacation in early March 2009 to go a little north of the Palm Beach area to Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island. Right when we drove into the Viera Wetlands parking lot, a beautiful Sandhill Crane was there to greet us. He let us get quite close to him and snap photos of him as we awed at how statuesque he was. I must say that I was expecting that all Sandhill Cranes were going to be this close to us throughout our drive through Viera, but it was not the case. But we were definitely not disappointed as we did have plenty of Sandhill Cranes in large groups seen in the distance, flying overhead, and we even spotted a few nesting cranes. 

The elegant Sandhill Crane

"What are you looking at!?!" (If you click on the pic to enlarge and flip back and forth from the previous picture and say this phrase, it's quite amusing).

Sandhill Crane - Striking red eyes and forehead and large, fluffy body are unmistakeable.

I do miss the fact that we don’t have Sandhill Cranes all year round here in Georgia, but it’s nice to know that they pass through and sometimes stop to give a warm, loud hello!


  1. Nice shots of the cranes. I love the one on the nest. I didn't realize coastal Georgia got the sandhills passing through. I should have visited there when I lived in Atlanta.

    1. Thanks, Dina! I'm not sure how prevalent Sandhill Crane migration is over Coastal Georgia. It may be more through central and west Georgia.

    2. Oh, and just to clarify, these pictures were taken in Central Florida. Not sure if you might have thought these were taken in Georgia.

  2. Very nice images Maureen. Despite some 20,000 Cranes wintering down in SE Arizona every year I've still never had a good look at these birds in person, but your photos are stellar!
    I have a certain affinity for the gangly birds...
    It's neat how their feathers form a victorian-style bustle on the back. With the way they delicately step, it's like they're always ready for a fancy shmancy ball.

    1. Victorian-style bustle is a great description! They would be the belle of the ball!

  3. Great post & photos Maureen! I enjoy the Sandhill Cranes as well. It is so funny to drive through busy, crowded neighborhoods and see them in the yards.

    1. Thanks, Tammy! It is funny just to see them hanging around. A couple of times I would see some in the parking lot at work, and it's amazing how no one else was really taking notice of them.

  4. Very nice photographs. I would feel lucky if I saw just one crane.