settlers called sandhill cranes “preacher birds” because their antics
resembled a preacher leading his congregation.
This joyous “dancing” is one of the most remarkable and thrilling
sights in the animal world. Dancing cranes bow ceremoniously to each other,
bounce into the air as high as 20
feet, hop about from one foot to the other, flap their wings, toss their heads,
pirouette, toss sticks into the air, and use many other elaborate gestures.
This “dancing” was once thought to be part of a mating ritual, but
since Sandhill Cranes mate for life, there seems no real need for extensive
courtship. These fantastic shows
are now believed to take place to enforce social and family bonds, and for
conjunction with elaborate ground performances, Sandhill Cranes have varied
vocalizations, which they use for communication. A Sandhill Crane's very long
trachea allows it to make very loud, very long calls. Animals behaviorists
studied these calls and have identified some of these as having specific meaning
(i.e.: distress, location, unison, nesting). family and social bonding seem to
be an important part of the Sandhill Crane's life.
Sandhill Crane’s very long trachea allows it to make very loud, very long
calls. Animal behaviorists have
studied these calls and have identified some of these calls as having specific
meanings (i.e.: distress, location, unison, nesting).
Family and social bonding seem to be an important part of the Sandhill
As mentioned above, Sandhill Cranes mate for life.
As juveniles, cranes will often “date” 3-4 other cranes before
settling down with a life mate. To
an experienced onlooker, a crane’s cheeks reveal its relationship status. For
unknown reasons, a paired Sandhill Crane almost always has bright white cheeks,
while unpaired Sandhill Cranes have gray cheeks.
This feature may help unpaired cranes identify each other.
Although on the whole, Sandhill Cranes are peaceful birds, they are well
equipped to handle any situation that may arise.
A crane’s wings can deliver powerful blows, much like a pair of fists.
In addition, they have a large wingspan, which can keep potential threats
at a safe distance. A Sandhill
Crane’s feet can also act as a powerful weapon. It’s long legs and very sharp claws also pose a strong
threat to intruders or nest robbers, as well as its long pointed beak, which can
be used much like a dagger (Sandhill Cranes have remarkable aim with their
A crane’s long bill not only acts as a weapon, but as a feeding tool.
A Sandhill Crane will probe the ground for grubs and insects, sometimes
reaching 4-5 inches below the surface. The
bill is also used to break up larger food items that cannot be swallowed whole.