Cranes are among the oldest living birds on the planet. A Crowned Crane fossil was found in the Ashfall Fossil Beds (northeast Nebraska). Is was estimated to be about 10 million years-old!
A close relative of the Crowned Crane is the Sandhill Crane. A fossil of this bird was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida. It was dated to be about 2.5 million years-old!
Today, these birds still resemble their prehistoric ancestors.
Let’s discover more about the Sandhill Crane.
Quick Facts About the Sandhill Crane
- Height: 3 to 4 feet
- Weight: 6 to 12 pounds
- Wingspan: 6 to 7 feet
- Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
Did You Know?
- Sandhill Cranes are omnivores. This means they eat a varied diet. However, 90% of the Sandhill’s diet consists of plant material (including waste grains found on farmland). Other foods include nuts, berries, roots, insects, snails, and small invertebrates.
- Sandhill Cranes mate for life. They attract one another through a courtship dance. They “bust a move” with jumping into the air, bobbing their heads, and stretching their wings to span up to seven feet.
- The female Sandhill Crane usually lays two pale-colored eggs with brown markings.
- Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for up to 32 days.
- The nest is built from cattails, sedges, and various grasses. It measures around 40 inches in diameter and six inches deep.
- Eight hours after the baby Sandhill Crane hatches, it is able to leave the nest and swim.
- During migration, these cranes may travel more than 200 miles a day. They’re fast fliers, too, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
- Migratory subspecies of sandhill cranes breed in the Northern U.S., Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Each winter they undertake long southern journeys to wintering grounds in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mexico, and California.
Isn’t the Sandhill Crane a cool bird?
Tell us your thoughts on this prehistoric critter in the comments section.
Can you spot the baby Sandhill Crane in this picture? He’s really good at staying camouflaged!