We’re very fortunate to have Sandhill Cranes in Central Florida. You can see these large wading birds all around the area and you often see them in groups of two to four. Usually the group is a family with two larger birds (the parents) and one or two smaller juveniles.
For a few weeks last year, I regularly saw one family on my way home from work – they were often in a field next to the entrance ramp where I get on the toll road . It was interesting to watch the young bird grow and eventually leave the parents. I’ve also seen them in parking lots and even crossing major roads (on foot!).
According to Wikipedia, The Florida Sandhill Crane subspecies is estimated to have some 5,000 individuals remaining and is protected in our state. Sad fact: Sandhill Cranes are hunted in several western states and Canada. Fun fact: Ten million year old fossils of the Sandhill crane have been found which makes it the oldest known bird species still surviving.
Sandhill Cranes and nest – Nikon D90, ISO 200, f/8, 1/640 sec, Sigma 150-500mm @ 500mm, 60 meters distance
I didn’t realize that Sandhill Cranes nest on the ground. I saw a nest for the first time yesterday at Vierra Wetlands and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. How has this species survived for ten million years using this strategy? Can you imagine how difficult it is to protect a nest from all the predators in the middle of a marsh? I saw large alligators not far from this nest and I’m certain that there are raccoons, snakes and other things that would love to eat eggs or small birds close by.
iBird says that both parents incubate the eggs during the day, but only the female does so at night. It doesn’t say what the male bird does at night, but it must have to help defend the female. I can only conclude that these birds are very fierce defenders. Alligators and other predatory animals must learn to leave them alone – after all, modern alligators have been around for about six to 12 million years!
©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.