Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) are among the oldest living birds. The oldest unequivocal Sandhill Crane fossil is 2.5 million years old, over one and a half times older than the earliest remains of most living species of birds.
Sandhill Cranes fly south for the winter and in their wintering areas they form flocks of over 10,000 birds.
The Cuban Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis nesiotes and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis pulla are listed as endangered species. This is a photo of a Mississippi Sandhill Crane colt being weighed at White Oak Conservation, photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. In 1975 there were less than 35 of these birds remaining on the planet prompting the creation of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.
The students of Umatilla Middle School in Florida recently installed its first ever “Sandhill Crane Crossing” sign. The kids there were worried about the fate of the threatened Florida Sandhill Crane so they got together and decided to do something about it. “Whenever you see one on the side of the road dead, it kind of makes you feel bad,” said seventh-grader Desiree Schildroth. “You don’t want them to go extinct, so we want to protect them. Just because we are kids, doesn’t mean we can’t do things,” she said.
People everywhere seem to love these charismatic birds and Sandhill Crane festivals are held across the country. One of the few Spring festivals is being held in Othello, Washington this coming weekend, March 28th through the 30th. That festival is supported by the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. You can read more about the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge on the Wildlife Conservation Stamp’s Blog page.
The photographs of the adult Sandhill Cranes in this post were taken at Modoc National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern California. Sandhill Cranes nest at the Modoc NWR and I will be following up with a post on that refuge soon, and most likely one later in the season when I can get some great photos of the cranes that nest right off the auto tour route there. I’m looking forward to that! Until then, here is one of the many cranes that were performing their mating dance when I visited about a month ago.