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The Odd Sandhill Crane

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – The tweetspeak team went to the Black Swamp in Volant, Pa. on Tuesday, March 28th. There, we bird watched on a cloudy and cool muddy day in the middle of the woods. While everyone else was looking at whatever crossed their path, I had a personal mission. The Sandhill Crane. My target is becoming new to Pennsylvania area as it is a stopping point for migration. Hearing rumors of this elusive bird so close by I had to be ever vigilante. Finally, near the end of our journey I found the beautiful crane just relaxing next to the water. While looking at this bird through my binoculars, I contemplated on the nature and behavior of this divine creature.

Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America. Their size can vary, but they usually are about the same size, but considerably bulkier, than a Great Blue Heron. Smaller than a Whooping Crane. They can grow to become a staggering 50 inches.

Sandhill cranes live in freshwater wetlands. They are opportunistic eaters that enjoy plants, grains, mice, snakes, insects, or worms. They often dig in the soil for tubers and can sometimes cause significant crop damage, which brings them into conflict with farmers. Each winter they undertake long southern journeys to wintering grounds in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mexico, and California. It is during this journey that the make their stop here in Pennsylvania.

Their mating call and rituals are very fascinating. Whenever the time comes, the pair vocalize in a behavior known as “unison calling.” They will typically throw their heads back and unleash a loud duet. Cranes also dance, run, leap high in the air and otherwise cavort around not only during mating but all year long.

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