Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Creature Feature: Florida Sandhill Crane.

We sometimes envy people who grew up in the country. Yes, the poor education and sparse ukiie of technology would tend to suck, but there is usually a lot of nature out there. Florida is extremely blessed to have these guys:

Florida is home to a population of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis). They range from the United States to Siberia, of all places. They are opportunistic eaters, and will pick on corn as well as small creatures. Some are migratory; others are not.

Sandhill cranes are usually a sight to behold, even if the adult plumage seems rather drab at first. A red patch of skin on the head makes the bird stand out. They are also amazing gliders, and enjoy riding thermals - updrafts of hot air - just as well as eagles and hawks do. The migratory sandhills gather in Bosque del Apache Wildlife Reserve in New Mexico; come in winter to see 10,000 or more cranes in one place!

Interestingly, sandhill cranes are intimately connected with the dinosaurs of old. They are almost living fossils, possessing the longest fossil record of any known bird species. The record goes back 2.5 million years. They also go into the karate "crane" pose, which looks an awful lot like an irate Velociraptor. And you thought Universal Studios was the only place they existed.

Although sandhill cranes in general are not endangered, there are a few subspecies that make the list and have conservation programs accordingly. As non-migratory birds, they are threatened by hunting and habitat loss. Killing a sandhill in Florida rakes up a hefty fine. Breeding programs exist, and should provide a bright future for this amazing bird.

1 comment:

  1. Some returned to northern Illinois last week. Poor things.