Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Southern Ontario Sandhill Cranes


I have several bird books, from a 1947 edition of Peterson's "A Field Guide to the Birds" to a 2006 edition of "Sibley Guide to the Birds". The distribution of a number of bird species has changed significantly in the sixty years between the publishing of these two books. In a few more years, changes will have to be made again.

In 1947 Northern Cardinals and House Finches were rarely seen in Southern Ontario. They are now very common year round residents. Sandhill Cranes were found in the Canadian Prairies and east as far as Michigan. My current Sibley guide indicates they now migrate and breed in northern Ontario as well. They are seen in Southern Ontario as they pass by in the spring and fall.


In the past couple of years, there have been reports of breeding Sandhill Cranes in our region within a thirty minute drive from our home. My husband and I found a pair earlier this month and I returned today to check them out again. We have seen many Sandhill Cranes on Manitoulin Island but it is difficult to approach them so most of my photos have been taken from quite a distance.

This pair stood close to the country road as they were feeding in a farmer's field. I don't know why they were engaging in mating behaviour as nesting season should be over. The eggs need a month to incubate and the young birds or colts do not fledge until they are 65 to 75 days old. I was able to watch these two birds dance together, something I expected to see only if I travelled to Manitoulin Island in April or early May.

The Sandhill Crane does not breed until it is two to seven years old. Mated pairs stay together year round, and migrate as a group with their offspring. If these birds find this area satisfactory for breeding, their numbers will undoubtedly increase each year if their offspring return with them. And the bird guides will be re-written...

Here is a link with more information on Sandhill Cranes.

23 comments:

  1. Very interesting info. How big are the sand cranes? I'm thinking about the size of a wild turkey?

    You were able to get some great shots of them. Close enough to show how red their "crowns" really are. Fantastic!

    I'm glad that more birds are migrating this way...much more for us to look for.

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  2. What a great opportunity to photograph these magnificent birds.
    Blessings,Ruth

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  3. I would compare it more in size and shape to a Great Blue Heron, but it has a larger wingspan and is about double the weight. A Wild Turkey is even heavier, but shorter.

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  4. Excellent photos Ruth!
    I saw these birds for the first time this year in Florida..over the winter..huge and amazing..we saw huge flocks of them feeding and making lots of noise.

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  5. What a great opportunity you had to watch the cranes dancing! These are wonderful photos of a very elegant looking bird!

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  6. Absolutely amazing photgraphs, especially given the time of year.

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  7. Wow oh Wow...they look HUGE!!!!
    Fabulous shots!!

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  8. Great photos Ruth, I think sandhill cranes are one of the most beautiful bird species we have in Canada -- and you're so fortunate to be just 30 minutes away from seeing them!

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  9. Why not bird dance any old time.?

    With the climatic changes going it's not any wonder that bird patterns are changing also.

    Love you captures of the Cranes mating, or practicing maybe.

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  10. This was a terrific post. This kind of thing interests me a lot. Havng grown up around here, then living for so long in the west, I used to wonder about some of my favorite childhood birds, esp. the Cardinals. I asked in the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise store in Calgary, and was told that someone even further north, in Edmonton, had reported a cardinal. That was at least second- or third-hand info, and no one could vouch for the ID, but I suspect it was a less-experienced birder mistaking a waxwing for a female cardinal. One thing that really interests me here in the Point Pelee area is the complete absence of Black-capped chickadees. It seems to me there should be tons of them here, and when I get time (yeah right!) I want to do a search, contact birders, bird blogs etc and find out just how far one has to go away from here to start seeing them again.

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  11. What beautiful birds! You got some amazing shots of them. I hope they do continue to breed where you are. I wonder what their mating dance is all about at this time of year?

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  12. They are such interesting birds. There is a wildlife refuge in this area where they are lead by ultralight, but I've never seen them.

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  13. Great photos, especially the first one. Interesting that the bird migrating and breeding areas are changing.

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  14. Fantastic Sandhill Crane photos! I tried to locate Sanhil Cranes that had been reported in Connecticut but didn't have any luck.

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  15. I just discovered your lovely blog after 'googling' "sandhill cranes breeding ontario".

    I was camping 2 weeks ago near Parry Sound and saw a family of Sandhill Cranes (Aug.3rd) - 2 adults and 2 young 'colts'. Since the young ones appeared too young to fly - they looked like they still had some down, and didn't fly when disturbed, just walked quickly off into the marsh - I'd have to assume that they were breeding there.

    Your photographs are excellent by the way - I look forward to looking in again.

    BobRob

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  16. Such amazing photos of the sandhill cranes! I just saw my first ones last week on Manitoulin Island. There were four of them in a field by the road. They are quite majestic.
    Do you mind telling me what kind of camera you use?

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  17. Leslie- I took these with a Canon SX10IS a nice point and shoot camera with a 20X zoom.

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  18. Anonymous8:15 pm GMT-4

    i seen 3 sandhill cranes at my fathers farm today oct.3 wow what a sight.just outside of cambridge on.

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  19. Sandhills cropping up all over the northeast, it was only a matter of time before the birds appeared in Massachusetts. The first confirmed pair bred in Massachusetts in the first season of Atlas 2, back in 2007, where they were located nesting in a wetland in New Marlborough. Since then, Sandhills have been sighted during the breeding season in southern Berkshire County

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  20. Anonymous6:27 pm GMT-4

    To confirm "Anonymous"'s sighting above, we have seen sandhill cranes the last two years south of Cambridge. My wife thinks she saw some fly overhead within the last few days. These have been mating pairs with young. I hope to get photo's this year. They are huge and the first time we saw them walking in the field adjacent to our property we thought someone's exotic birds had got loose. But no mistake, they were cranes. Unfortunately, the field where we always see them is now split into lots and construction of new houses is about to begin.

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  21. I have heard they are in the area already. They mate early in the spring. I saw in the Cambridge area in March a couple of years ago.

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  22. Sandhill cranes are long-lived; some have been known to live more than 25 years in the wild. They do not attain sexual maturity until they are three to five years old. Their ground nest is built from nearby vegetation scraped in a small mound. Cranes lay two eggs, although it is rare for both young cranes to survive the 10 weeks to flight stage.

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  23. You were able to get some great shots of them. Close enough to show how red their "crowns" really are. Fantastic!

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