The Sandhill Cranes are truly a spectacular sight to see. Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend a photography workshop in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. I was in awe at the abundance of Sandhill Cranes. Having never seen them in Ohio (one of the many species on the state’s endangered list), I was truly amazed by this large wading bird’s courtship dance.
The Sandhill Crane’s courtship dance includes jumping up to eight feet in the air, bowing to one another, wings spread outward or inward, and dance-like steps around each other. Their dancing is an important part of their mating ritual during the spring, but can be seen any time of year performing this graceful dance. It’s not uncommon to see other sandhill cranes gathered around, sometimes even walking between the courting pair. Others seem to surround the pair to “cheer” them on.
Sandhill Cranes are a monogamous bird having one brood a year with an average clutch size of two eggs. Breeding typically occurs during the months of April and May, with hatchlings approximately one month later. They are dependent on wetlands and typically roost in moist bottomlands or shallow water. During their breeding season they prefer to nest in large areas of bogs, shallow marshes, or wet meadows.
If you’d like to see additional photos of the sandhill cranes courtship dance, you can view my collection.
Sandhill Cranes: Migration And Endangerment
In North America there are six subspecies of Sandhill Cranes. Three of these subspecies are migratory. Although Sandhill Cranes/subspecies have made a remarkable comeback since the first European settlers arrived, in some states the population is declining and has become a concern, or are on the threatened or endangered list.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects the Sandhill Crane and subspecies. Unless prohibited by regulations, each State has authority to legalize hunting with proper permits. Last amended in 1998, the MBTA made it illegal to huntmigratory game birds with the aid of bait.
Many states have legalized, or are proposing, the hunting of these beautiful wading birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that the Sandhill Crane has reached high enough population numbers that, if hunted, won’t cause a dramatic decrease in the population.
The loss of habitat for the Sandhill Crane as well as encroaching human population is also a concern. The cranes make their home in bogs, savannah, wetlands, marshes, grasslands, etc. If you would like to help restore or conserve their habitat you can make donations to your state’s Endangered Species or Wildlife Diversity funds. In Ohio, our state income tax form has a special checkoff program which allows you to donate a very small amount of your refund to theEndangered Species Special Account.
Sandhill Cranes: Additional Information
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Important Information for Waterfowl and Sandhill Crane Hunters
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Are you an artist? Use your talent to contribute to the conservation of wildlife
The Endangered Species Coloring Book – Children might enjoy coloring pictures of endangered animals while learning about them
(Note: I had previously written this article under my “real” name when I joined the Focusing On Wildlife Facebook group)