It is hard to not be captivated by cranes.
The sights and sounds associated with them can be mesmerizing, especially when they gather together in large numbers during migration.
I was reminded of this just last week when I was fortunate enough to lead a group of my Wild Birds Unlimited colleagues to witness such a gathering.
Each fall, migrating Greater Sandhill Cranes assemble in Northwestern Indiana at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. Their numbers can peak at over 20,000 individuals. Adding to the spectacle is their daily ritual of gathering in the same 300 acre field at both sunrise and sunset.
The scene of so many cranes in one place at one time is impressive. But as they retreat from the field to roost in a nearby wetland for the night, the cacophony of thousands of cranes calling simultaneously is truly unforgettable.
Sandhill Cranes are noted for their distinctive, penetrating bugling calls, often heard well before the birds are seen. Their calls are frequently described as trumpeting, bugling, or rattling sounds, but these adjectives do not fully convey the volume or quality of the sound produced by a mature Sandhill Crane.
The main reason for their unique sound and loud volume is that their trachea is almost twice as long as their neck. This allows the trachea to coil (like a French horn) right under the bird’s sternum, which amplifies and alters the pitch of their calls.
It is a lingering sound, one that is permanently etched into my memory as part of a truly spectacular experience into the world of the Greater Sandhill Crane.
The Sandhill Cranes are in full migration now, so please leave a comment to share your observations and experiences with all of us.