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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