Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes, California

Sandhill Cranes, California

Sandhill cranes are one of the all-time joys of my winter. A large bird that moves with strength and elegance, they forage and roost here every winter in large migrating flocks of “survival groups.”


After 22 consecutive winters of circling back roads and rice fields in the Sacramento Delta, I can tell you one thing:  every winter is different.  Sometimes it is super foggy and you can only hear the cranes.  More recently with our milder winters and sunshine we can often spot large flocks of them dotting the landscape.  The quantity of migrating cranes, their roosting grounds and daily activities, all vary depending on the weather, the fields, and the resources.


Grus canadensis have several subspecies which vary in size and colorWe see the lesser and greater sandhill cranes which are about 4 feet tall, partaking in the grains of the flooded rice fields.  With a wingspan of over 7 feet, they migrate down from Canada every year by the thousands.  This year we counted over one thousand cranes in a weekend.  Having spent the winter months here, soon they will head back to Canada to breed. 


They gobble, sort of like a turkey only softer, and sometimes I’m so happy to see them that I gobble back.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander



45 thoughts on “Sandhill Cranes

  1. They look perfectly in sync standing there Jet. As though they posed for you. I can only imagine capturing such a shot takes great patience and skill. You make it look so easy and relaxed.

    • We have my partner Athena to thank for the photo here, and you hit it right on the mark: it took great patience and skill, and we were in this one spot for a good long time. Fortunately there were hundreds of birds in the area and there was a lot to see. Thanks so much for your kind comment Sue. 😀

  2. I widely spread the wings of my imagination and off I go to those exciting places you usually bird …
    Numerous species of birds and of rare beauty and grace.Nice to meet this wondrous couple of the Sandhill Cranes!Oh,lucky you,Jet!You counted over one thousand cranes in a weekend,my friend and heard them gobbling ? I think,as I’m reading your post,I’ll start gobbling back … lol
    Thank you so much for your exciting posts,dear friend Jet 🙂 xxx

  3. My dear Jet, you’re so talented and versatile: You gobble to the Sanhill Cranes, caw to the Ravens, bark at the Dogs and snort at H.J.! Thank you Jet. Great post! 🙂

  4. We anticipate their comings and goings here every March and November. I’m amazed how far their vocalizations travel. Sometimes I can hear them inside the house, doors and windows closed! I go outside and look to the sky to see them, but they are so far up it’s nearly impossible to spot them!

    • I love your description of hearing them but not seeing them, Mrs. B. In dense fog it’s the same way. But hearing them with all the doors and windows closed, I have not experienced this. That’s a great image. Many thanks! 😀

  5. You grew up on the shores of, as well as had the Horicon Marsh as a playground, and blogged about it. But have you ever had the opportunity to visit the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI? A haven for Sandhill and several other types of cranes, it should be on every birders list of places to see, and make a donation to, if they are so inclined.
    I am fortunate to have spent my youth close to the Marsh and still enjoy hearing the Sandhills gobbling as they come and go from the rookery, and Canadian Geese honking during their migration over the Marsh when I go back to visit family in the area.
    Perhaps fate will allow us to meet there on one our trips back to visit the family and friends we have there!

    • I have considered the Crane Foundation in Baraboo — they talk about it quite a bit at the Horicon Marsh Visitor Ctr. It sounds wonderful. Maybe I’ll combine it with a trip to Lambeau Field in the future. Great to hear from you Tom! 😀

  6. Just make sure the Packers are playing the Eagles or the Falcons when you make the Pilgrimage to Green Bay to the worship with the disciples of St. Vince in the Basillica that Curly Lambeau built!

    • They are indeed a delight. They are very skittish, however, and if you don’t move and don’t expect a photo, just enjoy the sight, you’re usually much better off. But try telling a photographer that….lol. 😀 😀

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