Michigan Birds: Sandhill Crane

Flying Crain

Flying Crain, photo by GLASman1.

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

Mark says that sandhill cranes are quickly becoming his favorite birds. Check this out bigger and see a couple more views in his slideshow.

The Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr has a cool Sandhill Crane slideshow.

19 thoughts on “Michigan Birds: Sandhill Crane

  1. We saw a mom dad and a baby in allegan mi near little john lake, they were amazing my 6 year old and 4 year old daughter got to see them


  2. Four showed up in my yard on the lake today (Lake Orion, MI). I heard them first, had no idea what the noise/racket was. Got a couple good pix, it was very exciting to see this magnificent bird so close.


  3. I have had up to four cranes in my complex for months now and I had no clue what kind of bird it was . Didn’t expect to see them in the walled lake area . These birds are not afaid of people so the will walk up to your patio doors .


  4. Great shot! Love the red of the feathers on the top of the head. Also, interesting sound they make eh? I saw a bunch of them in New Mexico last year and found their sounds really interesting!


  5. I have three of them in my front yard every morning now for the last week or so. My massive great danes are scared to death of them! lol Beautiful birds!!


  6. The last 2 mornings I have had 2 beautiful Sandhill Cranes in my back yard. My husband and I love to watch them and that sound that they make….. it takes your breath away. Gaylord, Mi


  7. I live in Fl. have many Sandhill Cranes in my yard.This past week a different looking group of Cranes has arrived.Just 4 [2 adults-2 youngsters] They’re beautiful,prettier than Fl. ones,they’re such a pale gray they’re almost white,more plumey,and their feathers are trimmed in brown.I wonder if these Cranes could’ve traveled here from another country?Their beaks are even redder.They seem to have a sheen to them.I love the Sandhills,such fabulous birds,I don’t understand how anyone could hunt them!!! Keystone Heights,Florida..


  8. On 7-15-13, we saw the parents of two young ones strolling along the road between where 6 mile road and 7 mile road ends. I don’t know the city. They were right next to the car, and nearly fearless as I slowly followed them and took pictures. I got out of the car and tried to scare them into the weeds because I feared for their safety, but darnit they wanted to stroll along the road, and that’s what they were going to do. I got within maybe 7 feet of them and they didn’t seem to care. What an amazing sight!


  9. I have seen a pair of dark brown cranes feeding in a marsh area adjacent to Gun Lake, west of Hastings, several times in the last week. Awesome, magnificent birds!


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