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The Hard Life of a Sandhill Crane

5/16/2018

 

Under Dad's wing, this week-old sandhill crane colt feels safe enough to swim and paddle around its marsh home...happy to be out of the thick woodlands it had to trudge through all day. It's just a part of this little birds daily training. It's a day-in-the-life of a sandhill colt which is always grueling, exhausting, educational and not always successful.

This is the second year in a row I have monitored this specific mated pair of sandhill cranes raise their young. Their chosen nesting area is really good for safety, more so than the many other cranes using this wetland marsh. But to get to dry land where the young build strength and learn to forage and survive there are many directional paths to choose from.

Last year this Mom & Dad chose the most dangerous route that led them to a deep stream crossing near an alligator den. Sadly Dad lost his rambunctious favorite and was not the same the rest of the season. They carried on and raised one colt and I was there the day it took its first of many flights. Family of three, job well done.

Almost two weeks ago these parents began nurturing and training two new born healthy looking colts. Alison and I monitored a full day trek just days ago of this new family of four. Thus far they have outsmarted the gator. Oh yes, the gator is there, slipping under its gator hole and skimming the banks and laying in wait for its next avian meal. But this smart Mom and Dad have selected a brand new route into the woodlands which has so far eluded crossing the deep river parts where the enemy lies. 

It was a nerve racking day's journey as I followed the family (loosing track of them for expanded amounts of time) and would spot them on a trek that was meandering along the river banks and crossing dirt paths to avoid what they experienced last year.

All I can say is wow. I couldn't have felt more proud for the family and their survival instincts. These two colts are under the wings of two, more educated parents. I wish this family safe passage where ever they go.

CONCLUSION: The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission made it illegal to feed sandhill cranes. Many are killed on Florida roads while walking through neighborhoods for human garbage and feed in yards. There is the threat of predation to the young colts by cats and dogs. And young cranes have died from pesticide poisoning. Florida sandhill cranes have an abundance of natural food in the wild. For your safety and theirs, it's never a good idea to them.

photo ©MarcHarris/MarcHarrisWildlife 2018