Michigan Birds: Sandhill Crane
May 11, 2011
The Baker Sanctuary in northwest Calhoun County is a Michigan Audubon sanctuary that hosts thousands of cranes. It was established in 1947 and was the first crane sanctuary in America. They have fantastic information about sandhill cranes in Michigan. They write that the Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) is one of only 15 species of cranes in the world and is one of just two crane species native to North America.
While the Whooping Crane, our other native crane, is highly endangered and restricted to only a few areas of the West, the Sandhill is more widespread and in most areas is more abundant. Once nearly eliminated from Michigan, Sandhill Cranes have made a comeback and now are becoming one of the state’s most popular watchable wildlife species.
Cranes are tall, stately birds with a heavy body, long neck and long legs. Standing four to five feet high and possessing a wing span of six to seven feet, Sandhill Cranes are Michigan’s largest bird. Long, skinny legs and neck give a false impression of size; the males weigh an average of about 12 pounds and the females around 9-1/2 pounds. Except for this size difference, both sexes look alike.
…Sandhill Cranes have a variety of vocalizations, the most common of which is generally described as a repeated series of trumpeting “garoo-a-a-a” calls that can be heard for over a mile. One of the reasons for this remarkably loud and penetrating call is an unusual windpipe. In most birds the trachea passes directly from the throat to the lungs, but in Sandhills it is elongated by forming a single loop which fills a cavity in the sternum. It is not surprising that the louder and more harmonic Whooping Crane has a longer trachea with a double loop.
You can hear these crane calls including the unison call at that link. Don’t miss the Michigan Audubon Crane Fest they hold every October too! Also see Sandhill Crane on All About Birds has more information and some crane calls and on Wikipedia