Watching the Cranes Dance


Growing up a quarter mile from Cramer’s Field in Fairbanks, the first bird call WC learned and the first migratory bird WC learned to recognize was the Sandhill Crane. The cranes stage at Creamer’s – now Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge – in impressive numbers, sometimes more than 2,000 birds at a time. Flocks of dozens to hundreds of birds flew over WC’s house in spring and fall migration. As you can imagine, Sandhill Cranes were a linchpin of WC’s early interest in science.

You probably know Sandhill Cranes “dance.” It isn’t really a dance; it’s a courtship display and behavior. And the cranes bring an energy and exuberance to courtship that was a part of the joy of spring for WC. So it was a delight find a mated pair recently, and to have a chance to watch the birds go through their timeless rhythms.

Sandhill Crane, Idaho

Sandhill Crane, Idaho

WC and Mrs. WC were lucky enough to see a nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes recently. If you don’t now the species, this is a big bird, four feet tall and a six foot wingspan. And, of course, that ten-inch dagger on the front of their face.

The dancing, almost always accompanied by their trumpeting, rattling call is a delight to watch. These three photos were taken over the court of 1.5 seconds.

Sandhill Crane "Dancing," Idaho

Sandhill Crane “Dancing,” Idaho

Sandhill Crane "Dancing," Idaho

Sandhill Crane “Dancing,” Idaho

Sandhill Crane "Dancing," Idaho

Sandhill Crane “Dancing,” Idaho

 

Sandhill Crane Mated Pair, Idaho

Sandhill Crane Mated Pair, Idaho

And after the dance was done, the pair set about the serious business of finding a spot for a nest and raising a kid.

In these times of pandemic, it’s useful to remember that nature’s rhythms continue, pretty much unchanged.