Romance of the Sandhill Cranes
The Love Life of a Pair of Sandhill Cranes
I've been documenting the lives of a pair of sandhill cranes for the past three years. Almost daily, they pass behind my house in Florida so I have quite a few opportunities to take pictures. They've gotten used to me and my camera and are pretty nonchalant about my paparazzi behavior. I have hundreds of photos of this pair of cranes and their babies.
Today I happened to be on hand to witness the mating of this pair of cranes. Being the camera buff that I am, I had my Canon Powershot SX20IS in hand. Here are the photos and my notes on their behavior.
If you are ready to explain "the birds and the bees," then you can show this to your children. I'd suggest that you review it first to see if it is age-appropriate. The photos are not very detailed, but consider if you want to explain what the birds are doing (or not).
(all the photos on this page were taken by Virginia Allain)
Romeo Waiting for Juliet - Click on the other photo to see it larger & read the captionClick thumbnail to view full-size
Here Comes Juliet
Romeo Approaches Juliet
As the male approaches the female, his tail feathers are fluffed up more than is usual.
Keep in mind that these are large birds. When standing tall and stretching their necks upward, they are almost as tall as a person.
Juliet waiting for Romeo
The male approaches the female crane
Female crane with wings outspread, male crane right behind her
The male crane hops onto the back of the female
Romeo and Juliet mating in a flurry of feathers
It's Quickly over and the Two Cranes Spend Some Time Smoothing Their Feathers
The Male Crane Keeping an Eye on Things While the Female Looks for Food
The Female Searching for Food
Books about Sandhill Cranes
Learn more about the sandhill cranes and their behavior in these books.
Intrigued by the Florida sandhill cranes, I wanted to find out more about these stately birds. Steve Grooms' book filled in some of the details about their nests, food, territory, love life, chick rearing, and other habits. Fascinating!
The book also covers the migration of the midwestern cranes and profiles cranes from around the world. The color photos are wonderful. (review by Virginia Allain)
The book functions on many levels; as a memoir of an Oregon rancher raising a family, as a history of Klamath ranching, as the story of one crane's survival, and as a plea for conservation. Dayton Hyde rescues an egg from a flood, gets it to hatch and then has a friend for life as the sandhill crane makes itself a member of his growing family.
Many black and white photos through the book show the cranes, the new chicks, and scenes of ranch life. The author describes the animal behavior and their interaction in interesting vignettes. One can't help but learn a lot about nature just from enjoying his accounts. The rescue of the baby porcupines was quite funny.
I'm glad to see it still in print.
(review by Virginia Allain)
The Dance of the Sandhill Cranes
It's often called the mating dance, but I've seen them perform this when they are startled by a snake on the ground and another time when I surprised them by making an abrupt movement.
Notice the one crane picking up and tossing a stick as part of the ritual.
On the day when I photographed the cranes mating, I didn't see the cranes dance. He called to her across the lake and she flew over to join him. It was on other occasions that I've seen the dance.
Here's a Sandhill Crane on Its Nest - The Parents Take Turns Sitting on the Eggs
© 2010 Virginia Allain