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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
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Florida sandhill crane

Scientific name: Grus canadensis pratensis


CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Gruiformes
FAMILY: Gruidae

FEEDING TYPE: Omnivore
STATISTICS: Weight 7-11lbs; Height 31.5-48 inches: Wingspan 5-7 feet

DESCRIPTION:
The Sandhill crane is a large bird, usually three to four feet tall. It has a long neck, legs and beak. It can be identified by the red crown of feathers on its head and its long, narrow beak. It also holds its neck straight in flight. Its gray coloration is another key feature, although its feathers are occasionally stained brown from foraging in bogs.

RANGE:
During the summer, it lives in Canada; during the winter, it lives in the southern part of the US; during migration, it lives in the middle states of the U.S. with almost three-fourths of the cranes living along the Nebraska Platte River.

HABITAT:
Open grasslands, marshes, swampy edges of lakes and ponds, river banks, and occasionally pine savanna.

ADAPTATIONS:
A very social bird year-round. In the spring, during mating season, groups have been observed leaping, hopping and flapping their wings. Otherwise, it looks fairly calm and prefers walking rather than flying.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
The Sandhill crane’s breeding season is March through June. Typically, its nest is a slight mound of dried and green wetland plants. It lays two eggs and incubation time is approximately 30 days. After hatching the parents break the eggshell into small pieces and feed them to the young, the chicks often leave the nest six hours after hatching, sometimes even swimming short distances. The crane becomes sexually mature around two - three years of age.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to man
Predator to aquatic insects and worms

WILD DIET:
Small mammals, young birds, eggs, seeds, grass shoots, grain bulbs, berries, lichen and aquatic plants, insects, earthworms, snails, and rodents.

STATUS:
It is listed as Least Concern with the IUCN Red List. However its populations are declining in some areas.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • When the crane walks, its head bobs back and forth like a chicken.
  • The Sandhill crane can be hunted in Kansas.
  • It is a huge economic resource in Nebraska where Sandhill cranes stop over during migration. People come from all over the world to see this migration.

BIBLIOGRAPHY :

  1. Ellis, D. (1996). Cranes: Their biology, husbandry, and conservation. Washington: Hancock House.
  2. USGS. (2006). The cranes: Status survey and conservation action plan. Retrieved November 19, 2006.
  3. National Geographic.
  4. Birdlife International. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions. 1996.
  5. BirdLife International 2009. Grus canadensis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4.
     

Published: March 2011

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