HAPPY 20th GOTCHA DAY to the most uncommon example of the world’s most common crane! Niles arrived at Wildlife Images on August 28, 1999. Ironically, Niles was orphaned as an egg during a brush fire in Anchorage, Alaska – not far from where wildfires are currently burning.
Sandhill cranes are the world’s most common crane and one of the few not currently endangered. They live mostly in the far north (Canada and Alaska) during the summer, but can be seen throughout most of the western United States during migration season, when they gather in flocks of up to 10,000 individuals. Sandhill cranes have been migrating along the same general route for 10,000 years and it has been referred to as the greatest migration in North America. Many sandhill cranes head to the harvested fields and wetlands of Nebraska in a massive and stunning migration. Nebraska is the only state where it is illegal to hunt these beautiful birds. Found in freshwater wetlands, Sandhill cranes are opportunistic eaters that enjoy plants, grains, mice, snakes, insects, or worms.
Sandhill cranes have an interesting, distinctive call. They make a rattling “karrrroooooo-oooo” sound that varies in length, loudness, and strength depending on what they are communicating. During mating season, they call in unison, singing and calling loudly to each other to create a bond. They will also do a mating dance which is an incredible sight to see. Wing flapping, jumping, tossing about, and even throwing sticks and vegetation into the air creates quite a display during mating season and sometimes just year-round for fun.