Bird of the Month: Sandhill Crane

audubon-logo-wood-duck-square-medium-300x300 By Corinne Shaw

As new birders, we joined the Prescott Audubon Society to enhance our birding knowledge. To experience a new birding adventure, we traveled to the Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico for the Sandhill Crane Festival.

To support the many migrating birds, including the Sandhill Cranes, the Bosque del Apache NWR and local farmers carefully plant and harvest crane-friendly food sources. As the weather turns cold in Colorado, the cranes travel through New Mexico, to the delight of thousands of birders.


Sandhill Crane. Photo by Corinne Shaw.

During the day, the cranes feed in the fields in the area. The cranes may number in the thousands, but they will not be seen in large numbers in the Refuge during the day. As dusk approaches, the cranes start to fly into the local ponds and the large ponds of the Bosque. You can hear the cranes calling for miles; they have a wonderful night-time call. Crane groups can range from only a few to as many as 20 in magnificent “Y” formations. As a photographer, the sight of a flock of Sandhill Cranes is a beautiful must-have picture.

Sandhill Cranes roost in shallow ponds. The water provides good protection; a coyote’s splashing approach, would result in alarms awakening the entire flock.

Not long after sunrise, lift-off activities begin. Sandhill Cranes prefer not to fly from the water, they make their way to the shore to stretch their wings, limber up their legs and sing their morning calls. To signal take off, cranes lower their heads, lean forward and take a short run to achieve flight. Birds lift off in small groups and are joined by other birds as they fly overhead. This take off routine continues until all the birds have left the pond.


Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.

Corinne Shaw worked for a large food manufacturer for over 30 years. She and her husband Jerry retired to Prescott Valley, Arizona in 2007.

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