Sandhill Crane Festival

When Bird­ers go to a Bird­ing Fes­ti­val they trav­el from place to place, hang out swap­ping sto­ries, check out the local scenery, chat­ter, gos­sip, and feast on the local culi­nary del­i­ca­cies, then go to bed exhaust­ed only to get up ear­ly and start over – until its time to go home.

On the oth­er hand, the birds the Bird­ers have come to see trav­el from place to place, hang out swap­ping sto­ries, check out the local scenery, chat­ter, gos­sip, and feast on the local culi­nary del­i­ca­cies, then go to bed exhaust­ed only to get up ear­ly and start over – until its  time to go home.

Well, fan­cy that now! Only the Cranes get to stay longer.

Sandhill Crane climbingGreater Sand­hill Crane climb­ing in a faint haze

Sand­hill Crane migra­tion routes extend from Siberia and Alas­ka to the North­ern Unit­ed States, from Low­er Cana­da to Texas and New Mex­i­co, and from Low­er Lake Michi­gan to Flori­da.

One group of Sand­hills migrates entire­ly with­in the west­ern U.S. Both Greater and Less­er Sand­hill Cranes sum­mer in Low­er Oregon/Upper Cal­i­for­nia and migrate to win­ter over in California’s Cen­tral Val­ley. Click the Map for a down-load­able ver­sion.

The Sandhill Cranes’ Winter Festival

All images tak­en at their win­ter­ing grounds near Lodi, Cal­i­for­nia

Click on the images for a larger size, use your back button to return here

Off they go.
Three Crane in formation

Fly­ing about, see­ing the coun­try­side
Three cranes
Cranes do fly in for­ma­tion, but not as con­sis­tent­ly as some oth­er migrat­ing birds.
Crane FormationCranes in formationAnd some­times not …
Cranes in ragged formationCranes flying out of formationcranes flying

Very often they fly alone
Crane flying aloneCrane at sunsetUntil it is time to land – the least grace­ful of aer­i­al activ­i­ty
Cranes landingCranes landing

After all, a Crane does have to eat some­time.

Din­ing alfres­co

Cranes feedingWhen feed­ing one is always on guard

cranes feeding

Sand­hill Cranes feed on a wide vari­ety of plant tubers, grains, small ver­te­brates (mice and snakes) and inver­te­brates (insects or worms). Sand­hills feed in shal­low wet­lands and dri­er, har­vest­ed grain fields.
Unable to fly, the chicks for­age most­ly on insects, worms and oth­er pro­tein rich foods need­ed to fuel their rapid growth.

Guard Calls are sin­gle loud vocal­iza­tions used to warn oth­er cranes of dan­ger or to threat­en oth­er cranes. These calls are some­times echoed by the oth­er mem­ber of the pair. You can hear this “echo­ing” in this audio clip. Sand­hill Crane Guard Call

Time for a bit of gos­sip
Two CranesThree Cranes in the Mist

Uni­son Calls 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. Uni­son Call

Mix­ing with oth­er migrat­ing flocks

First, Greater white-front­ed Geese

Greater White fronted Geese
Canada Geese and a full moon
Cana­da Geese fly past a near­ly full moon

The most dra­mat­ic flights are in the evening as the day draws to a close and the light dark­ens to pink­ish rose.

Cranes in the late afternoonCranes as the sun begins to setand final­ly,
Two Cranes at SunsetTo bed for the night, stand­ing upright in shal­low water. Tomor­row the Cranes will do it all again.
And they will be back next year, you can bet.

Don’t leave yet, you will want to check out these sib­ling posts:
“Sand­hill Cranes danc­ing”
“Tun­dra Swan U455

which you will find in the right hand col­umn, under Bird Life and Behav­ior.

For infor­ma­tion about the Novem­ber Lodi Crane Fes­ti­val click or phone 800/581‑6150

For infor­ma­tion about Crane Migra­tion click

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22 Responses to Sandhill Crane Festival

  1. Jackie says:

    Hi Richard,
    I met you at Star­buck-Auburn, you were the one with the SF Chron­i­cal.….
    Beau­ti­ful pho­tos. Glo­ri­ous to watch the birds.
    Enjoyed the chat…
    I think you men­tioned about a map of some­thing.
    Might see you at next years sand­hill crane fes­ti­val.…

    • admin says:

      Hi Jac­ki,
      Glad to hear from you. Yes, I do have a map and will send it to you short­ly. Also a Field Guide to Crane Behav­ior.
      Last­ly, I have added you to my week­ly email list of bird pho­tos.

  2. Pam says:

    Love the pho­tos.

  3. Erica DeBlase says:

    My sis­ter died lat­er that Day my boyfriend and I seen a crane on top of the build­ing of down­town Indy canal over­look apart­ments.….…. he or she was by him­self… being that the crane does tend to have a red beak she being a red head I imme­di­ate­ly thought of her.… my boyfriend com­ment­ed he had seen this bird the day before and how very rare they were and the fact it was fly­ing solo… after I seen her body and was try­ing to deal with her loss I looked up and seen this bird in all its won­der above the build­ing in our view.….….….. again he brought up how rare this was… I was won­der­ing how often cranes come to indy espe­cial­ly this time of year by itself.… thanks in advance.

    I do not think this is just cir­cum­stance my sis­ter was speak­ing to me.… I know that sounds weird but I read some things and it sug­gests these birds are close to extinc­tion… please get back to me.

    Eri­ca DeBlase

    • admin says:

      I am sor­ry, I have no idea how often Cranes come to Indi­anapo­lis. Are you say­ing that the bird had a red beak? If it did it was not a Crane, they have black beaks. Most like­ly it was a White Ibis. They have red heads and red beaks. White Ibis are rare in Indi­ana, though it is pos­si­ble,
      Hope that helps

  4. Susan Wallace says:

    This is beau­ti­ful! We would love to be on your mail­ing list. Thanks. Sue

  5. Al Avery says:

    Richard, it was nice talk­ing with you today near the Sand Hill Crane venue, West
    of Lodi. I hope your shots of the Kites came out well. Fol­low­ing the infor­ma­tion on
    your busi­ness card, I reviewed your blog. Con­grat­u­la­tions on some very nice images !

    You are a very tal­ent­ed pho­tog­ra­ph­er.

    All the best,

    Al Avery — Stock­ton, Ca.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Al,
      The Kites were a bit far away but got a few. Fol­lowed by a beau­ti­ful por­trait of a perch­ing Kestrel.
      Am going to add you to my week­ly email bird list,

  6. Corona says:

    Sand­hill Fes­ti­val sounds tru­ely won­der­ful. what a pity I am so far away! I love this blog and Sand­hill crances danc­ing. Thanks for the enjoy­ment.

  7. Jeanette CARR says:

    add me to your email list.…fascinating infor­ma­tion and a delight­ful read.

  8. newton Harband says:

    Tru­ly won­der­ful pho­tos and bird call recordings.Thanks.

  9. Sally Shanks says:

    You have real­ly cap­tured the sights and sounds of the Delta in Win­ter. Very hard to do!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Sal­ly, Some of these, in par­tic­u­lar the one of three Cranes (one is preen­ing) were very dif­fi­cult as the air was full of mist and I kept los­ing the focus.

  10. Sally Burr says:

    I want to go again this year. Maybe we can car­a­van again. great shots!!!

  11. Carolyn says:

    I have nev­er seen these awe­some birds before. They are so majes­tic.

    Such beau­ti­ful night shots!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Car­olyn,
      Took a bit of doing to get the col­or right, but it worked. The birds real­ly are awe­some.

  12. Barbara Banthien says:

    Your Sand­hills in flight are tru­ly won­der­ful. Excel­lent work.

  13. Ken & Nancy Nieland says:

    Great site! Thank You

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