Photographing the Florida Sandhill Crane by Travis Paige
Nature, wildlife, and landscape photographer Travis Paige took the image on my website’s homepage of me handling a rough-legged hawk. That’s how I met Travis—during a photography workshop where I handled birds. I asked him to blog about bird photography on my new site. Here is Travis’s story about beautiful Sandhill Cranes and their babies.
The Florida Sandhill Crane is a big bird—reaching heights of four feet with a wingspan of around 78 inches, they stand out when they are foraging for food along the dikes at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in DeLeon Springs, Florida.
I visited Lake Woodruff in mid-April, a different time of year than when I usually visit. During this time, I was able to see some young cranes (also called colts) with their parents.
Sandhill Cranes are known to be great parents. Both birds will build the nest, help incubate the eggs, and take care of the young colts until they are ready to go out on their own, usually in about 10 months. Sandhill Cranes usually lay two eggs with an incubation period of around 30 days. Immediately after hatching, they can walk and forage with their parents. Colts are born with eyes wide-open, and with a coat of down. I would guess the young cranes I photographed were about 30 days old.
The cranes have very long beaks, and they use their long beaks to dig for seeds, roots, and insects. They are mainly herbivores but will eat anything available, including small mammals, reptiles, and snails. They do not fish like their close cousin, the Blue Heron.
One way to tell the difference between cranes and herons is their necks during flight. Cranes fly with their necks straight, and herons fly with their necks tucked in. With their enormous wingspan, cranes can stay aloft for hours without exerting much energy.
Sandhill Cranes can live a very long life compared to most wild birds, as they sometimes live more than 20 years. They have also been roaming the Earth for a very long time. The oldest fossil remains of a Sandhill Crane were dated at about 2.5 million years old.
All photos ©Travis Paige Photography