Sandhill Cranes: A Model of Faithfulness

Known for Their Faithfulness:

As we look throughout Creation we often find examples that model Godly character traits. One of these animals is the Sandhill Crane. These birds mate for life and also share the responsibilities for raising their young. Let’s take a closer look at these birds.

Gray, Red and Black:

The Sandhill Crane is a large bird that has a gray body, a long pointed black beak, and a bright red crimson capped head. Notice too, the long legs that it uses to move about the wetland habitats where it builds nest and raises its young.

Migration:

Sandhill Cranes are known for their migration patterns from the extreme northern part of Siberia all the way down to the South in Florida. They travel through many states along the way where there are prairies, wetlands, grain fields and expansive grasslands.

Let’s Dance and Sing:

One of the interesting things about this species is how they celebrate courtship. The males and females are very active in performing a ritualistic dance in which they bob their heads up and down, leap upward into the air, and then descend. This energetic dance is accompanied by a duet. The female first emits a rolling call that sounds a lot like someone rolling their R’s. This deep sound arises from their long necks and allows the call to have a deep resonant sound. The male quickly joins the female and the sound can be heard miles away. If this isn’t enough, they often grab sticks and toss them into the air. This behavior is fun to watch.

Let’s Share the Work:

Not only do these cranes mate for life but they also demonstrate how working together has its benefits. Both parents share in the incubation of the eggs. Usually the female lays two eggs in the nest. These nests are built by both parents and are composed of mud and vegetation. Usually they are built upon the mud in the wetlands. Sometimes they are actually created on top of the water like rafts. Being surrounded by water has both its benefits and hardships. many enemies don’t like the water so that helps insulate them from attack. However, other animals have no problem moving through the watery wetlands. Some of their enemies include foxes, mink, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, cougars, wolves, and raccoon. They also experience aerial attacks from great-horned owls, crows, hawks, and eagles. These primarily target the young so the parents need to be constantly on the vigil. Once the babies emerge from the eggs the young are protected by their parents until they reach the age of about 9-10 months. After about 65-75 days the young are able to fly. They then accompany their parents on the rest of the migration path.

Designed with a Purpose:

Their body design is just what is needed for where they travel and live during the course of the year. The long legs allow them to move about in the marsh lands where they make their nests and raise their young. Their long sharp beaks allow them to harvest grain from the fields as well as capture frogs, small rodents, nesting birds, snails, worms, snakes, lizards, berries, and other food stuffs. Their bright red caps help identify them by their companions. Their wing spans can reach above six feet which allows them to fly with ease. In fact, these birds are masters at using thermals in their high altitude flights across the nation. Many times they rarely have to flap their wings because the thermals allow them to soar great distances thus reducing the need to burn up their fuel reserves from the food they have eaten.

Long Lived:

Since the parents mate for life this can be a long commitment. One crane was banded and recaptured and found to be 36 yrs and 7 months old. Their usual lifespan, however, is about 20 yrs. The chances of not making it to that age are many. Most that die before that time are taken when they are young. Adults also face the possibility of being brought down by a shotgun blast. It seems that man has acquired a taste for these birds and they are readily hunted in many areas for their “beef-like” meat. This meat is often referred to as the “Rib-Eye of the Sky“. Some of the states that allow the harvest of Sandhill Cranes include: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Some argue that by harvesting some of these birds it helps reduce the damage done to their crops. Others say that reduced numbers allow the rest to have more food during migration. Needless to say, this practice has to be heavily regulated to maintain the species.

Important In The Environment:

Sandhill cranes serve an important role in the overall balance of nature. They are involved in many interesting food webs. Not only this, but they provide us with great entertainment and opportunities to witness God’s handiwork in Creation.

Check It Out Yourself!:

I took the pictures in this blog post while visiting the Zoo in Queens, New York. I have also observed them in the fields near Davis, California when we used to live in Sacramento. We would often see large flocks of these birds flying overhead in the fall of the year. Most of the information I have found on these birds came from the Queens Zoo Blog, Wikipedia, the Audubon Field Guide, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the National Wildlife Federation. Why not take some time to see if you can learn more things about this amazing species. As you learn more remember that we, like the cranes, were designed to remain faithful to our families and friends. If the birds can stay committed, we also can with the help of our Loving Father, God.

Faithfulness:

I am reminded of the Scripture that reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” It is only with God’s help that we can remain faithful to others. How faithful are you? Do you know God and allow His Spirit to fill you with these godly character traits? If not, turn to Him and He will surely help you. Let’s be known for our faithfulness.


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