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It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s Sandhill Cranes!

| Curtis Carman
It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s Sandhill Cranes!

During their annual migration from Alaska, Canada, and Asia, this majestic grey bird with a red capped head can be seen (and heard) overhead in The Parklands. Their distinct, loud, trumpeting call can be heard from over 2.5 miles away. On their way to wintering grounds in the Southern U.S. and Mexico, flocks of Sandhill Cranes can be seen in numbers upwards of 100 creating an unparalleled natural chorus.

The call of the Sandhill Crane (heard below) is a product of their anatomy. They have large tracheas that coil into their sternum helping to produce a low pitch sound. When calling in unison the sound can drown out event the loudest of street noise.

Click here to listen

Sandhill Cranes breed in open wetland habitats in far Northern latitudes. Mating for life, they build their nests on the ground using cattails, grasses, and sedges. They prefer to build their nests in areas of vegetation, growing in standing water for protection against predators like coyote, fox, raccoons, owls, and eagles. To protect against aerial predators, cranes leap into the air kicking their long legs forward, inspiring dance moves and karate kicks. Their diet consists mostly of seeds and berries, but can include small vertebrate and invertebrate species.

A favorite rest area of Sandhill Cranes during their annual migration is an 80-mile stretch of the South Platte river in Nebraska. Upwards of 600,000 Sandhill Cranes can be spotted here at a time (almost 80% of the global population) making this one of Planet Earth’s greatest migrations.

So what’s all this ruckus about? A flock was spotted overhead in Turkey Run and Broad Run Parks on December 9, 2016. So the next time you are hiking or biking in The Parklands this winter make sure to listen and look up, you won’t believe your ears.

Photo by Rick Greenspun

About the Author

Picture of Curtis Carman

Curtis Carman

As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.

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