Fall is here! Mornings have a crispness in the air, leaves are changing color, and birds are beginning to migrate south for the winter.
One of the most spectacular migrations is that of the Sandhill Crane. During this time of year, Sandhill Cranes are gathering in massive colonies as they journey towards the southern states and Mexico.
Sandhill Cranes are magnificent, gigantic birds standing up to four feet tall with an immense wingspan of over six feet. Adults sport a brilliant red spot on their forehead complementing the stained red feathers on their body. These birds not only look prehistoric, with their long, tall bodies, but they are among the oldest living birds on the planet, having emerged over nine million years ago! Truly a living fossil.
Here in Northern Oakland County, our open marshlands provide vital summer breeding habitat for nesting pairs. Sandhills mate for life, creating nests on the ground and typically laying two eggs. Both male and female are involved in caring for the young, who will continue to stay with the parents for up to their first year of life.
These birds are truly remarkable, so enjoy them while you can until next Spring when they’ll again return to the natural areas we provide here for another season of breeding, nesting and rearing their young.
Fun Fact: Sandhill Cranes have naturally grey feathers, they get the reddish tinge to their bodies due to iron-rich mud they rub onto themselves when preening.
For more information:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Rowe Audubon Sanctuary
Crane Cam on the Platte River
National Wildlife Federation