As always, I’ve been searching for my two Sandhill Crane families, the one with two young colts and the one without.
Cranes typically return to the same general area to nest, a phenomenon known as nest fidelity. They also build their nests in the same or similar spots. But corn has been planted in the whole area where I usually see the family with the juveniles, forcing them to find a different place to nest and raise their young.
I’d just driven my whole farm country route, hoping to see the crane family I’d seen a couple weeks ago in their new spot. I didn’t have any luck with that, though. Instead, I saw two cranes pecking in someone’s front yard. Who would’ve thought!
I drove by them several times at normal speed to test how flighty they might be, and they seemed more interested in whatever they were finding in the grass than the passing cars. So I pulled over and began to snap some pictures. Of course, they no longer felt comfortable and began to walk away from me to the back yard. I moved on not wanting to interrupt their feeding.
Seeing this pair, got me thinking of the pair I typically see so I drove over to the two-track and they were there. They were gorgeous standing in a field of wildflowers in the waning, golden sunlight.
I was fairly close to them so I was able to get better close-up shots. They were squawking away in their unison call, probably unhappy with my nearness and especially Gracie’s hanging out the car window puzzled by these weird sounding critters.
Farther out in the same field was another pair of Sandhill Cranes. I just barely captured the shot before they took off flying.
Seeing three sets of Sandhill Crane pairs got me thinking about where were the young ones. Why weren’t these pairs breeding? I knew cranes reach sexual maturity at two years, and the cranes I’ve seen at the two-track were at least that. Where were the colts?
I had to understand what was going on so I headed to some bird sites on the internet. What I discovered was that while Sandhill Cranes may pair as 2-year olds, successful breeding does not happen until they are four to seven years old. In fact, only 20% of 4-year olds breed, whereas 90% of 7-year olds breed.
So, it looks like I’ll have to wait a bit for my young cranes to breed. In the meantime, let them tap, bow, and flap. I learned too that the more a pair dances, the more they perfect their synchrony for when they are ready to breed.