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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