Florida Sandhill Cranes are long-legged, long-necked, gray, heron-like birds with a patch of bald, red skin on top of their heads.
Cranes feeding on my neighbor's lawn.
Even though we see them year round in central Florida the Sandhill Crane population is noticeably increased of late. It is true some Sandhill Cranes live here all year long but there are also those that migrate here during the winter.
It's fascinating to watch them stroll about foraging both on land and in shallow wetlands. I caught sight of this pair (only one is shown in the photo) when at my mailbox. They are poking their heads into the ground of my neighbor's yard looking for food. 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."
They typically skulk about in pairs. Pairs mate for several years and even sometimes for life. A couple of years ago we had an almost daily visiting pair to our neighborhood and then one day there were four. Only the additional two were much shorter and had fuzzy little bodies. They were adorable. Now I wish I had been into photographing everything that moves back then... oh well. Young Sandhills stay with their parents until they are about 10 months old.
I thrill at seeing the cranes fly overhead with necks outstretched in a most powerful, rhythmical form. And the voice of the sandhill crane is one of the most distinctive bird sounds in Florida. I can't help myself but to stop and watch whenever I hear them coming.
On my way to an appointment not too far from my house a couple of weeks ago I took this photo next to a suburban pond. This morning passing by the same pond there were 6 Sandhills then there were 4 more around the bend. Of course I didn't have my camera (shame on me) but this guy and its mate were probably among the group.
Sandhill Cranes are primarily birds of open freshwater wetlands, shallow marshes, wet meadows, and adjacent uplands. They utilize a broad range of habitat types, from bogs, sedge meadows, and fens to open grasslands, stubble fields, and savannahs. I guess that explains why I have been seeing them everywhere I go these days.
Does anyone else like them as much as I do? Or is it just me?