Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sandhill Cranes in Ohio

Sandhill cranes are iconic in Nebraska. I know a couple of people who live there that have talked about them for years. I know they resemble our cranes and herons that we have here in Northwest Ohio, except that they're bigger. And louder. As of today, I can confirm that this is true.

Sandhill Cranes
(Grus canadensis)

I had just pulled into our driveway and when I turned the car off, I heard a very loud noise that closely resembled the honking of a large flock of geese, yet I knew it wasn't the usual Canada geese that are so common here. I got out of the car and before I saw them, I was struck by how VERY LOUD these birds were, whatever they were.

Across the road and about a ¼-mile away, I saw a large flock of long-necked, long-legged birds landing on the southwest side of the creek that is officially known as Cunningham's Ditch. There were about 300 of them and I was completely fascinated.

I ran into the house and grabbed my camera. My photos are highly zoomed, so they aren't the highest quality, but you can see them well enough to realize how very regal and handsome they are.

Though we are on the fringe of the sandhill crane's summer breeding range as well as their migration route, they aren't normally found in Ohio. I'm 58 years old and this is the first time I've ever seen them in my life and I very well may never see them here again.

The red dot shows my location in Ohio.
(Click to enlarge)
Sandhill cranes go as far north as the Arctic Circle in the summer and south to northern Mexico and the southern U.S. for winter. We're not in their usual migration path, but we're also not that far outside it, so on occasion I would imagine they venture into Ohio as they go from here to there.

They're omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. I'm going to assume they were gleaning corn from the already harvested field they set down in. Or maybe they were just taking a rest on this drizzly, 45-degree day.

They spent about three-quarters of an hour on the ground, where they were fairly quiet (by comparison) until they lifted off and continued on their way. The only thing was, they headed north. Perhaps they're as confused as our weather.

They've been described as gangly...

I found them to be beautiful, handsome, regal and awe-inspiring.  I'm so glad I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see them.

For more information on sandhill cranes, visit Cornell University's All About Birds.


Mamie said...

Thanks for sharing this! Through you, I also was able to enjoy the sandhill cranes in Ohio. Hope they're headed in the right direction!

PlantPostings said...

Dear Kylee: Your enthusiasm is contagious! They are, indeed, handsome and fascinating creatures. I think I take them for granted, since they're with us here in Wisconsin through three seasons. I was surprised to learn they don't commonly travel through Ohio, since we're so close. Last winter, when I was in Florida for a month, it was fun to see them in their winter habitats, too. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos and your experience!

Sue Chanay said...


They are on the golf courses when we go south to Fla. in the winter. They are so interesting. And what a loud voice. Coming from Ohio they seem so exotic to us.

Sue Chanay

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