Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Sand­hill Crane Dancing

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Male Black­birds sing arias, Great Egrets preen, pose and flare their long white aigrettes into pretty cloaks as their lores turn color, just to be noticed by the females of their species. Male Sand­hill Cranes who never enter bird beauty con­tests and whose vocal tal­ents con­sist of the sounds of rocks rub­bing — dance. Sand­hill Cranes dance to find a part­ner, dance just prior to mat­ing, and dance as a token of their commitment.

Crane Dances include a vari­ety of move­ments: Upright Wing Toss, Hor­i­zon­tal Head Pump, Bow, Ver­ti­cal Leap and Ver­ti­cal Toss, stick or grass Toss­ing, Pre­cop­u­la­tory Bill Up, Cop­u­la­tion and the Uni­son Call. Uni­son Calls are lim­ited to paired adults and appear to facil­i­tate egg fer­til­iza­tion. Uni­son Calls are per­formed with the birds stand­ing close to each other and in a syn­chro­nized duet, rein­force the pair bond between a female and a male. The Calls are also used to threaten preda­tors or other cranes.

Unlike humans, who dance for mate attrac­tion usu­ally at night under rotat­ing sparkling star balls sur­rounded by pound­ing drums and scream­ing singers, Cranes dance in full day­light, often in fields of wet corn­stalks, accom­pa­nied only by the gar­gling sounds of music they pro­duce deep in their throats. Danc­ing is believed to be involved in the cranes motor devel­op­ment, one that thwarts aggres­sion, relieves ten­sion, and strength­ens the pair bond.

A Small Entertainment

Here one fel­low stands by his uncon­cerned mate. Uncom­fort­able with her nonchalance,

Sandhill Cranes standinghe attempts to enter­tain her by exe­cut­ing a basic Ver­ti­cal Leap.
Rais­ing his arm wings …
Sandhill Crane, wings raisedHe leaps up!
Sandhill Crane, wings raisedSpread­ing his wings as his mate seem­ingly obliv­i­ously strolls by
male Crane leaps, mate strolls byand he drops back into the wet mud.
Sanhill Crane drops into the mudUnim­pressed, she con­tin­ues her stroll on, so he tries again, leap­ing so vig­or­ously that water streams from his feet.
Sandhill Crane, water streaming from his feetBut this time, much higher, caus­ing her to turn her head. (A com­mon reac­tion among the females of all species when pre­sented with a truly daz­zling dis­play of “Look at ME!” by the male of the species.)
Sandhill Crane dancingAnd he descends in a grace­ful ballet-like pos­ture.
He appears to look aloof but it is really the Bill Up dance posi­tion.
Crane dancing, Bill Up position

As he proudly fin­ishes his Dec­la­ra­tion of Inter­est.
Sandhill Crane finishing his danceAnd the pair resumes their stroll through the muddy cane field, mut­ter­ing sweet noth­ings as they go. Cranes Mut­ter­ing to each other

These ingo­ing dance rit­u­als seem to work very well. Sand­hill Cranes mate for life and only rarely ever re-mate. (Pos­si­bly because there are no divorce attor­neys in Craneland. )

Crane danc­ing is a delight­ful coun­ter­point to the mas­sive for­ma­tions of Cranes mov­ing across the sky at sun­set or sunrise.

Def­i­nitely a must see!

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6 Responses to Sandhill Cranes Dancing

  1. Sally Shanks says:

    The lit­tle black­bird is also not impressed with the dance. Looks like Staten Island corn stock mid win­ter. Some­times, I think they’re call­ing their pals over to share the good feed.

  2. Frank says:

    Whew! After all that effort — and still, she is non­plussed. I know just how he feels ~ thanks for the pics!

  3. Sally Burr says:

    these are my favorite birds. I think of their sound as purring. thanks Richard, very charm­ing. great to have the sound effects too!

  4. Barbara says:

    It’s a won­der­ful day for a crane dance! Thanks for the gar­gling sounds of love. A truly orig­i­nal multi-media pre­sen­ta­tion. Keep on invent­ing and show­ing us the sto­ries of birds life.

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