Survey

Sandhill Cranes

Florida sandhill cranes are long-legged, long-necked, gray, heron-like birds with a patch of bald, red skin on top of their heads. Sandhill cranes fly with their necks outstretched with powerful, rhythmic wing beats. Florida's sandhill cranes are a threatened species that are found in inland shallow freshwater marshes, prairies, pastures and farmlands. Sometimes they can be seen on lawns throughout Florida. They are sensitive birds that do not adjust well to changed environments and high human populations. Sandhill cranes are usually seen in small family groups or pairs. However, during the winter, Florida's sandhill crane population increases as cranes from northern states spend the winter in Florida. Sandhill cranes are omnivorous, meaning they eat a variety of plant and animal matter. Some of their favorite meal items include seeds, plant tubers, grains, berries, insects, earthworms, mice, snakes, lizards, frogs and crayfish. Unlike other wading birds, such as herons, sandhill cranes do not "fish." The voice of the sandhill crane is one of the most distinctive bird sounds in Florida. This "call of the wild" has been described as a bugling or trumpeting sound, and can be heard for several miles. Florida sandhill cranes stay with the same mate for several years and young sandhills stay with their parents until they are about 10 months old. Like their endangered relatives the whooping cranes, sandhills live to be older than most birds. In fact, some sandhill cranes live up to 20 years.

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