Cranes


Cranes are tall long-legged birds found on all continents except South America and Antarctica.  There are 15 species of cranes with 2, whooping and sandhill, found in the United States.

Cranes


Sandhill Cranes

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

Alaska


Sandhill Cranes

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

Alaska



Sandhill Crane

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

Alaska


Whooping Cranes

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Texas


Whooping Crane

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Texas


Sandhill Cranes

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

Alaska


Whooping Crane

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Texas


Whooping Cranes

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Texas


The Tallest Flying Bird!!


The sarus crane is tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 meters) and is a non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. Their favorite habitat is open wetlands in south Asia.


Sarus cranes have loud trumpeting calls. These calls are, as in other cranes, produced by the elongated trachea that form coils within the sternal region.  Pairs may indulge in spectacular displays of calling in unison and posturing.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarus_crane


Sarus cranes forage in shallow water (usually with less 1-foot depth of water) or in fields, frequently probing in mud with their long bills.  They are omnivorous, eating insects (especially grasshoppers), aquatic plants, fish, frogs, crustaceans and seeds.



A Vulnerable Species!


There were about an estimated 15–20,000 mature sarus cranes left in the wild in 2009. The Indian population is less than 10,000, but of the three subspecies, is the healthiest in terms of numbers. They are considered sacred and the birds are traditionally left unharmed, and in many areas they are unafraid of humans.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarus_crane


Whooping Cranes

2018 Photos


Whooping Crane traveling with Sandhill Cranes

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

October 2018


Approximately 500 whooping cranes travel north from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to Wood Buffalo National Park where they nest in the summer before returning to Aransas.  North Dakota is part of their flyway and occasionally they will stop for several days on their migration.


Whooping cranes are nearly 5 feet tall with a wing span of 7.5 feet, males average 16 pounds while females average 14 pounds.  Sandhill cranes are 4 feet tall and their wing span can be over 7 feet, males average 10 pounds and females 9 pounds.


Whooping Crane

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

October 2018


The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. Along with the sandhill crane, it is one of only two crane species found in North America. The whooping crane's lifespan is estimated to be 22 to 24 years in the wild. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. The total number of cranes in the surviving migratory population, plus three reintroduced flocks and in captivity, now exceeds 800 birds.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whooping_crane


Whooping Cranes

2019 Photos


Short Run into the Wind Needed for Flight!


Whooping cranes are the tallest bird native to North America and are anywhere from the third to the fifth heaviest species there, depending on which figures are used. The species can reportedly stand anywhere from 1.24 to 1.6 m (4 ft 1 in to 5 ft 3 in) in height. Wingspan, at least typically, is from 2 to 2.3 m (6 ft 7 in to 7 ft 7 in). Widely reported averages put males at a mean mass of 7.3 kg (16 lb), while females weigh 6.2 kg (14 lb) on average. 


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whooping_crane



Still Running!


Photographs were taken on April 19, 2019 in Burleigh County, North Dakota



Running Faster!


Almost There!


Take Off!


Mates for Life!


Whooping cranes live to be 22 to 24 years in the wild.  They become sexually mature between 4 and 7 years old.  They migrate from their nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada in the Fall and winter in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas before returning in the Spring.



Back from the Brink!


After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. The total number of cranes in the surviving migratory population, plus three reintroduced flocks and in captivity, now exceeds 800 birds.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whooping_crane


A Sight I will Probably Never See Again!


Perfect morning light, blue sky, the rare whooping crane and a south wind resulted in this whooping crane running towards me before taking off and flying.  I doubt that I will ever experience this again!



2020 Photos


Whooping Crane!

Burleigh County, North Dakota

April 18, 2020



Whooping Crane!

Burleigh County, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- April 19, 2020



The whooping crane, the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. Along with the sandhill crane, it is one of only two crane species found in North America. The whooping crane's lifespan is estimated to be 22 to 24 years in the wild. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery.  The total number of cranes in the surviving migratory population, plus three reintroduced flocks and in captivity, now exceeds 800 birds.  An adult whooping crane is white with a red crown and a long, dark, pointed bill. However, immature whooping cranes are cinnamon brown. While in flight, their long necks are kept straight and their long dark legs trail behind. Adult whooping cranes' black wing tips are visible during flight.  The whooping crane is roughly the fifth largest extant species of crane in the world, on average.  Whooping cranes are the tallest bird native to North America and are anywhere from the third to the fifth heaviest species there, depending on which figures are used. The species can reportedly stand anywhere from 1.24 to 1.6 m (4 ft 1 in to 5 ft 3 in) in height.  Wingspan, at least typically, is from 2 to 2.3 m (6 ft 7 in to 7 ft 7 in).  Widely reported averages put males at a mean mass of 7.3 kg (16 lb), while females weigh 6.2 kg (14 lb) on average.  The only other very large, long-legged white birds in North America are: the great egret, which is over a foot (30 cm) shorter and one-seventh the weight of this crane; the great white heron, which is a morph of the great blue heron in Florida; and the wood stork. All three other birds are at least 30% smaller than the whooping crane. Herons and storks are also quite different in structure from the crane.  Larger individuals (especially males of the larger races) of sandhill crane can overlap in size with adult whooping cranes but are obviously distinct at once for their gray rather than white color.  Their calls are loud and can carry several kilometers. They express "guard calls", apparently to warn their partner about any potential danger. The crane pair will jointly call rhythmically ("unison call") after waking in the early morning, after courtship and when defending their territory.  

The muskeg of the taiga in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada, and the surrounding area was the last remnant of the former nesting habitat of the Whooping Crane Summer Range. However, with the recent Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership Reintroduction Project, whooping cranes nested naturally for the first time in 100 years in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, United States. They nest on the ground, usually on a raised area in a marsh. The female lays 1 or 2 eggs, usually in late-April to mid-May. The blotchy, olive-colored eggs average 2½ inches in breadth and 4 inches in length (60 by 100 mm), and weigh about 6.7 ounces (190 g). The incubation period is 29–31 days. Both parents brood the young, although the female is more likely to directly tend to the young. Usually no more than one young bird survives in a season. The parents often feed the young for 6–8 months after birth and the terminus of the offspring-parent relationship occurs after about 1 year.

At one time, the range for these birds extended throughout midwestern North America. In 1941, the wild population consisted of 21 birds. Conservation efforts have led to a population increase; as of July 2010 there were about 383 whooping cranes living in the wild, and another 152 living in captivity. The whooping crane is still one of the rarest birds in North America. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the population in the wild population as 505 whooping cranes in 2017.


In the early 1960s, Robert Porter Allen, an ornithologist with the National Audubon Society, appeared as a guest challenger on the network television show "To Tell The Truth", which gave the Conservation movement some opportunity to update the public on their efforts to save the whooping crane from extinction. His initial efforts focused on public education, particularly among farmers and hunters. Beginning in 1961, the Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA), was established to improve the status of the whooping cranes. This non-profit organization functioned largely by influencing federal, state and provincial political decisions and educating the general public about the critical status of the bird. The whooping crane was declared endangered in 1967.


Identification of the location of the summer breeding grounds of the whooping cranes at Wood Buffalo National Park in 1954 allowed more detailed study of their reproductive habits in the wild, and led to the observation that while many breeding pairs laid two eggs, both chicks would almost never survive to fledge. It was concluded that the removal of a single egg from a two-egg clutch should still leave a single hatchling most likely to survive, while providing an individual for captive breeding. Such removals in alternating years showed no decline in the reproductive success of the wild cranes. The withdrawn eggs were transferred to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, where approaches for hatching and rearing crane chicks in captivity had been optimized using the more-numerous sandhill cranes. Initial challenges getting the resultant birds to reproduce, even using artificial insemination approaches, would give impetus to the first, unsuccessful attempt at reintroduction, by swapping whooping crane eggs into the nests of the more numerous sandhill cranes as a way to establish a backup population.


The techniques pioneered at Patuxent, the International Crane Foundation and a program at the Calgary Zoo would give rise to a robust multi-institutional captive breeding program that would supply the cranes used in several additional captive breeding and reintroduction programs.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whooping_crane

 

The whooping crane has been called the ‘giant panda of the bird world’ and, at one time, had decreased to a total of 16 individuals. C2S2 is working within the Whooping Crane SSP and the USFWS to accommodate reproducing pairs now ‘orphaned’ as a result of severe budget cuts – and elimination of the entire breeding program at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  Having rebounded from near-extinction, the whooping crane is truly representative of a species saved as a result of collaborative conservation.  Its original distribution included the Great Plains region and extended from the Arctic coast to Central Mexico, from Utah to New Jersey and south to Florida.  The decline of the whooping crane in the 20th century was related to the conversion of critical wetland habitats for agriculture as well as persistent and illegal hunting.


https://conservationcenters.org/programs/native-species-forces/whooping-crane/



Whooping Crane!

Burleigh County, North Dakota

April 19, 2020



Sandhill Crane Adventures

In

Yellowstone National Park

May 2019


"It sure is hard to climb on Mom's back!"


"Almost There!"


"Almost There!"


"Almost There!"


"Oh, That was too Tough.  I Think I will Sleep Next to Mom- I Can Hear Her Heartbeat- My Favorite Sound!"


Sandhill cranes raise one brood per year. In nonmigratory populations, laying begins between December and August. In migratory populations, laying usually begins in April or May. Both members of a breeding pair build the nest using plant material from the surrounding area. Nest sites are usually marshes, bogs, or swales, though occasionally on dry land. Females lay one to three (usually two) oval, dull brown eggs with reddish markings. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 30 days. The chicks are precocial; they hatch covered in down, with their eyes open, and able to leave the nest within a day. The parents brood the chicks for up to three weeks after hatching, feeding them intensively for the first few weeks, then gradually less frequently until they reach independence at 9 to 10 months old.  The chicks remain with their parents until one to two months before the parents lay the next clutch of eggs the following year, remaining with them 10–12 months. After leaving their parents, the chicks form nomadic flocks with other juveniles and nonbreeders. They remain in these flocks until they form breeding pairs at between two and seven years old.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandhill_crane


 May 31, 2019


Oops!  Baby on right fell down walking through mud holes.  Baby on left is being fed by Mom!


Sandhill Crane Family!


The Bison and the Cranes!

June 2, 2019



After finding the baby Sandhill Cranes on May 30, 2019 I was able to watch them for 4 days.  The Yellowstone National Park Staff stated that they had been born on May 29.  By the 3rd day, the babies were following their parents up the grassy slopes so their parents could feed them insects.  On the evening of June 2, the Crane family was returning to the slough where their nest was located.  Three large American Bison were also feeding near the slough and one Bison approaches where the Cranes were!


As the Bison got within a couple of yards of the babies, they hide in the slough grass and Sandhill Crane Mom walked to within a few feet of the Bison, calling loudly!



Sandhill cranes defend themselves and their young from aerial predators by jumping and kicking. Actively brooding adults are more likely to react aggressively to potential predators to defend their chicks than wintering birds, which most often normally try to evade attacks on foot or in flight. For land predators, they move forward, often hissing, with their wings open and bills pointed. If the predator persists, the crane stabs with its bill (which is powerful enough to pierce the skull of a small carnivore) and kicks.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandhill_crane


"Stay Away from My Babies"


The 9-pound Sandhill Crane Mom did not strike or kick at the Bison, loud calling and sudden flapping of wings was enough to startle the 2000-pound Bison.  



"Stay Away from My Babies"


This is the first time that I have seen a Bison jump away from another animal!  



"Stay Away from My Babies"


The 2000-pound Bison wanted nothing to do with an upset 9-pound Sandhill Crane Mom.  



"You Stay Away from My Babies and Don't Come Back"


The Bison did just that and Mom returned to her babies.  



The Bison was relieved that the whole situation was over.  



2020 Photos


Heading South!


Sandhill Cranes

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota


Photo of the Day- September 17, 2020


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