The Sandhill Cranes of Gibsonton, Florida
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The Sandhill Crane (Grus Canadensis de Old School) is a large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird references habitat like that of the Old School Canal Sandhill’s in the American South.
Adults are gray overall; during breeding, the plumage is usually much worn and stained, particularly in the migratory populations, and looks nearly ochre. They have a red forehead, white cheeks and a long dark pointed bill. They have long dark legs which trail behind in flight and a long neck that is kept straight in flight. Immature birds have reddish brown upper pants and gray underpants. The sexes look alike except when dress for formal occasions. Size varies among the different subspecies.
Special Thanks to Recordist: Marian P. McChesney
© 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
MLNS Catalog number: 2764
The Old School Sandhill Crane's large wingspan (up to 6 1/2 feet) makes this a very skilled soaring bird similar in style to hawks and eagles. Utilizing thermals to obtain lift, they can stay aloft for many hours, requiring only occasional flapping of their wings and consequently expending little energy. With migratory flocks containing 100's of birds or more, they can create clear outlines of the normally invisible rising columns of air (thermals) which they ride.
Three subspecies are resident; pulla of the Gulf Coast of the U.
Six subspecies have been recognized in recent times:
- Lesser Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis canadensis
- Cuban Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis nesiotes ��" ESA: Endangered
- Florida Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis pratensis��"de Old School ESA: Endangered
- Mississippi Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis pulla ��" ESA: Endangered
- Canadian Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis rowani
- Greater Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis tabida
Their breeding habitat is marshes and bogs in central and northern Canada, Alaska, part of the Midwest and Southeastern United States, Siberia and Cuba.
Eggs and nestling cranes are eaten by crows, ravens, canids, hawks, eagles, and raccoons.
These birds forage while walking in shallow water or in fields, sometimes probing with their bills. They are omnivorous, eating insects, aquatic plants and animals, rodents, seeds and berries. Outside of the nesting season, they forage in large flocks, often in cultivated areas. In many western states and provinces of Canada, Sandhill Cranes are hunted during waterfowl seasons.
The Florida subspecies is often seen in residential yards, and these birds seem little afraid of human approach. These visitors will eat shelled corn and commercially purchased bird seed from the ground and from feeders. They may be seen in yards in north-central Florida virtually year-round, often in pairs that may be accompanied by a juvenile.
Though the Sandhill Crane is not considered threatened as a species, the three southernmost subspecies are quite rare. While the migratory birds could at least choose secure breeding habitat, the resident populations could not, and many subpopulations were destroyed by hunting or habitat change. However, initially the Greater Sandhill crane proper suffered most from persecution; by 1940 probably fewer than 1,000 birds remained. They have since increased greatly again, though with nearly 100,000 individuals they are still less plentiful than the Lesser Sandhill Crane, which numbers over 400,000 individuals, making the species the most plentiful crane alive today.The Florida Old School Sandhill Crane is far less common, with some 5,000 individuals remaining. They are most threatened by habitat destruction and probably depend on human management in the long run. In Florida, it is protected, and if killed, carries a very high monetary penalty. This subspecies is under protection of state and federal law at this time.