Sunday, December 11, 2011

Talking sandhills

One of the hoped-for highlights of any visit to Reifel Island is meeting some of the sandhill cranes. This Friday, we found five, three together on the office lawn, and two near the outer edge of the Sanctuary.

In the shade of the office building. Probably the  year-round resident pair.

The Reifel Island website has a helpful, up-to-date page on the sandhills.

If there are just three birds, there is a very high probability you are looking at our resident pair and this year's young.

Laurie took this next photo between the rails of the fence:

This would be the youngster, or colt, born last May. His forehead is showing some red now, but it is still spotty. Compare it to October's photo.

By the outer path, we found another two small cranes, but these have the full red adult forehead. The young adults congregate with groups of other 1 to 5 year-olds, until it is time to find a mate.

"Is that a bag of food I see?"

By November, numbers generally drop to just our resident pair plus a select small group of visiting birds (less than 10 usually) that then spend the winter together. In the spring our pair chases out all other cranes, including their own young from the previous year, and defend the 300 hectare Sanctuary as their territory.
"It is! Gimme!"

These two cranes were more talkative than any I have met before. Every minute or so, one or the other would open a wide beak and let loose with a long, rattly squawk, sounding rather like a heavy barn door with very rusty hinges.

"Thank you! More, please!"

Listen to the call. (All About Birds, Cornell.) The youngsters' voices were not quite so resonant as this.


  1. Love that talkative shot. Birds can be so expressive it you take the time to watch, and you do! - Margy

  2. That bottom shot made me giggle - his expression is priceless!!!


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