Dean M. Chriss
Florida Sandhill Crane, Portrait
(Click image to enlarge)
Sandhill cranes are the oldest bird species alive today. The six sub-species are native to much of North America and eastern Russia. Three of these subspecies are migratory and three, including the Florida sandhill crane, are non-migratory. They live to be older than most birds with a life span of between 18 and 24 years.
These cranes are omnivorous, feeding on berries, grains, seeds, insects, small rodents, snakes, and lizards, but they do not fish like other wading birds. They mate for life, starting at three to five years of age. Courtship commences with an elaborate mating dance where the birds face each other, make croaking noises, and jump several feet into the air with extended wings. Then they bow to each other and repeat the ritual many times. Once mated, they build 3 to 5 foot wide haystack nests of vegetation close to shallow marshes. Predators include man, bobcats, raccoons, alligators, snakes, river otters, hawks and eagles. The scientific name for the Florida Sandhill Crane is Grus Canadensis pratensis.