Readers’ wildlife photos

June 3, 2014 • 8:51 am

Reader Ed Kroc sent in a nice series of photos of the sandhill crane, as well as an explanation:

For your consideration, here are some pictures of the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis). These were taken at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC, just south of Vancouver. This is a wonderful place, full of marshes and wetlands right at the mouth of the Fraser River. It’s a reliable oasis for many species of bird as they migrate south to north and back again each year, as well as an ideal location for many resident birds to nest.

Enclosed are a few pictures of an unfairly adorable sandhill crane chick with parents.  This little guy was only a day old when I was lucky enough to stop by the sanctuary.  The chick had yet to build up a tolerance to life outside the shell, frequently plopping down with little ceremony to nap for a few minutes in the spring sun.  Comparing the chick to one of its parents, it’s amazing to consider the morphological transformation these birds go through from nestling to adult.

Sandhill Crane Chick Passed Out

Sandhill Crane Profile

Sandhill Crane Chick Resting


Sandhill Crane Parent and Chick

Look at the feet on that chick!

Sandhill Crane Chick Standing

Sandhill Cranes on the Banks



34 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. That first one…he looks more like an ex-crane, already pinin’ for the river. Wish I could sleep like that on a moment’s notice in the middle of the day….


  2. Nice pics. My kids and I observed an adult pair of Sandhill Cranes raising a pair of chicks, from eggs on up, earlier this year. They nested in the reeds on the shore of a lake near our house. My daughter in particular spent hours documenting them. They grew accustomed enough to her that she could sit within feet of them and they would go on about their business without bother.

    Last year a Sandhill Crane that my daughter knew well died on the shore of another lake near us. She was, of course, sad. At my suggestion she moved the body to a large ant colony in an empty field and covered it. A few weeks later she retrieved a quite clean skeleton. Well, a good part of it anyway. Some parts where scavenged. In particular the skull was in very nice shape. She took it to school to show in a special class she and her brother are in.

    1. The leg bones make nice flutes, as our ancient ancestors figured out. A bit challenging to play at first, but the sound is worth it. I’ve never had crane bones to work with, but I’ve made similar flutes from wild turkey bones. If you’re interested, e-mail me for instructions; there’s also a tutorial on my website for a similar flute made from copper tubing, though bone is more delicate to work with.

      We have sandhill cranes in southern AZ in late winter at Whitewater Draw. Here’s a drawing of crane (right) and great blue heron feathers.

    2. Before you make anything from a migratory species you might look up to see what the federal restrictions are on having in your possession any part of a bird. The feds can be quite tough; there was a well-known bald eagle feather case several years ago. Key words might be “Migratory Bird Treaty Act”. I think Sandhills fall under the Act but things do change so check it out.

      1. I would not have posted the suggestion if sandhill cranes were covered under the Migratory Bird act. But sandhill cranes are game birds, like ducks, quail, doves, and turkeys.

        1. All migrating ducks and geese species fall under the Act. So do Sandhill Cranes… see this page and look under Crane,Sandhill.
          2013 list of species:

          I believe wild turkeys fall under state jurisdiction. Even with state game, it’s my understanding that they must have some sort of tag or proof associated with it (i.e., hunting permit, collectors permit) but the rules are more complicated than I would know, not being a hunter or seller of wild products. It gets tricky. Maybe there is a taxidermist reading this who can tell us more. Taxidermists would probably need to see verification from people who bring in game to be mounted.

          The general rule across the board in the U.S. is that wild species belong to the government (state or fed, depending on the species), not to individual people. I, for example, can’t kill something just because it’s on my land; it does not belong to me. There are special cases for nuisance animals but I don’t know rules on that either.

        2. Indeed, some birds are legal to hunt but gawd forbid you pick up a feather.

          I’m all for the intent of the Migratory Bird Act, but it gets taken to ridiculous extremes.

          1. Yes, it can be taken to extremes but I consider what brought it about in the first place: near extinctions due to market hunting and the millinery/collecting trade. Hopefully that is behind us, but I think the law is good for preventing that in the future.

            As I recall, the scuttlebutt at the time regarding the eagle feather / dreamcatcher case that I mentioned was that the feds wanted to “make a statement” due to the fact that the Endangered Species Act was up for some sort of buttressing or needed to be defended. Seems I recall that the fine was $100K. It was a bit overkill considering it was just a craftmaker who claimed she didn’t know better.

            1. I did just find a somewhat reliable reference on Snopes that the eagle feather / dreamcatcher case got the crafter a 1500.00 fine and 2 yrs. probation. It says she then she got pardoned.
              I remembered the case because it was so silly, plus it was local so got a lot of local press. The crafter sent the present to Hillary Clinton. Geez, I’ll bet she’s found a new hobby : )

        1. Some safe species to use for teaching appreciation of birds are European Starlings, chickens, guinea fowl, rock doves (pigeons), and House Sparrows.

  3. CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on them a couple mos ago. Not living in the midwest, they hadn’t been on my radar screen before that, but I was astonished to learn that Nebraska is the only state that doesn’t have a season on them.

    1. Sandhills were fairly rare until the last few decades, and I don’t think there were many states with seasons. I remember hearing about 15 years ago that Texas had a season on them and was appalled. Of course now they are much more abundant, thank goodness.

      It is really neat in the Chicago area in the spring and fall, as they migrate well west of Lake Michigan’s southern tip (apparently trying to avoid large bodies of water). I have a few times been privileged to see large v-formations presumably coming from the Jasper-Pulaski refuge in Indiana, on their way north. These are, I think, birds that are using a different flyway than the Texas/PlatteRiver birds going up into central Canada.

      It’s a stunning sight, and the sound is so unique, too. The sound goes to a deep place inside us –really stirring. I heard a lone one just this morning. Sometimes the lone ones circle so far above that you cannot see them.

      1. The sound evokes “dinosaur” for me, though of course I have never heard any dinosaurs.

        Their call does seem quite similar to the call of the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movies. I wonder if the sound people used the Sandhill Crane call as a model.

        1. I always think “prehistoric” when I hear them as well. Way prehistoric.

          Think we have some atavistic caveman memory traces? 😉

          1. Now you’ve triggered memories of the movie Caveman with Ringo Star and Barbara Bach for some reason. I think there is something wrong with my mind.

            1. I’m guessing there isn’t anything wrong with your mind, but maybe with your bad taste in movies. : )

        2. I went to the The Intl. Crane Foundation website yesterday to learn some things; it says fossils indicate cranes are the oldest “unchanged” birds we have found so far. They go back to the Miocene, 10 million yrs.

          They are talking about phenotype but that’s still very interesting given what the sound evokes in us.

          I wonder if that is why the movie people used something similar.

  4. We have a pair of sandhill cranes that show up in our back yard every year. Haven’t seen any chicks the last couple of years, but there were two years where the parents brought over two chicks. We are highly amused by the male’s mating dance, and this year our husband was finally able to get photos of the birds actually mating in our yard!

    1. Thanks! I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. Having been raised in the centre of the continent just reinforces this appreciation (although, to be fair, there is beauty in the middle too).

    I read the below poem years ago in school in a reader:

    “WHENEVER the days are cool and clear,

    The sand-hill crane goes walking

    Across the field by the flashing weir,

    Slowly, solemnly stalking.

    The little frogs in the tules hear,

    And jump for their lives if he comes near;

    The fishes scuttle away in fear

    When the sand-hill crane goes walking.

    The field folk know if he comes that way,

    Slowly, solemnly stalking,

    There is danger and death in the least delay,

    When the sand-hill crane goes walking.

    The chipmunks stop in the midst of play;

    The gophers [bunnies?] hide in their holes away;

    And ‘Hush, oh, hush!’ the field-mice say,

    When the sand-hill crane goes walking.

    – Mary Austin

  6. These are great photographs, especially of the baby crane. I have a fondness for cranes. Many years ago after I graduated college, the International Crane Foundation was just starting up. I wanted a job but at the time the only thing available would have been non-paying internships. It was great to see the organization develop over the years. If you are ever in central Wisconsin, check it out.

Leave a Reply