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Hanging With Mr. And Mrs. Florida Sandhill Crane

Yesterday in Punta Gorda, I spent time with a pair of (Mr. and Mrs.) Florida sandhill cranes, and they were fascinating to watch and photograph!

I researched the species afterward and have fun factoids with these six photographs in today’s blog post. Enjoy!

Factoid #1: Sandhill cranes mate for life. When they form a pair bond, it can last for years, until one of the cranes dies. After a mate passes away, the surviving crane will seek out a new mate. (The males and females of this species look alike, and here they are quietly soaking up the afternoon sun — before the Mr. starting wildly dancing and basically “cutting the fool,” as we say in the South!)

Factoid #2: Currently numbering between 4,000 and 5,000, the Florida sandhill crane is a non-migratory, year-round breeding resident that nests in freshwater ponds and marshes. They’re joined every winter by 25,000 migratory greater sandhill cranes from outside Florida. (I could have looked at this beautiful bird for days!)

Factoid #3: Sandhill cranes are known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch and flap their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance. (This is the male of the pair, and although Mr. and Mrs. were sitting quietly at first, later he started jumping straight up and down in the water unlike anything I’d ever seen before! I didn’t know whether to run or keep shooting!)

Factoid #4: The Florida sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule. (This is part of the Mr.’s wild jumping as described for the previous photograph. He was moving fast and splashing water everywhere!)

Factoid #5: Sandhill cranes have three eyelids, including a lower and an upper one like humans, as well as a third translucent inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane that rests just beneath the other two eyelids and swipes sideways. (If you look closely here, you can see the translucent membrane at the top of his eye. I have some other photos of their closed eyelids, and they look quite strange!)

Factoid #6: The Florida sandhill crane can reach a height of 47.2 inches, with a wingspan around 78.7 inches. (These I photographed were around 4′ tall when standing. Although they let me get very close, I did not measure their wingspan!)

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November 29, 2022



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