Blog by Harvey Webster
Director of Wildlife Resources
Sandhill Cranes are elegant and ancient creatures, stately plumed in gray, standing 4 and a half feet tall and sporting a distinctive red featherless patch on their foreheads. They make a loud bugling or trumpeting calls. They form permanent pair bonds and are renowned for their complex courtship dances and their duetting (synchronized unison calls).
This species was extirpated in Ohio, but has returned as a breeding bird to the state over the past 20 years and has been seen on Museum Natural Areas especially the McCoy Preserve. In 2012, 25 pairs of Sandhill Cranes nested in 19 Ohio counties, including Wayne, Geauga, Lorain, Holmes, Medina, Ashtabula and Trumbull. They are classed an endangered species in Ohio.
The young male was found at a Michigan truck stop gleaning bugs off of radiator grills. With no sign of parents in the area he was captured and delivered to the Howell Nature Center in Howell Michigan. He was determined to be too tame for return to the wild. The female sustained a permanent wing injury in January that rendered her flightless.
As a compelling side-note, the male came within 1 week of being euthanized. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gives wildlife rehabilitation centers a discrete amount of time, usually 6 months, in which to rehabilitate a bird and release it or, if unreleasable, place it in a zoo or educational facility. Otherwise they are instructed to euthanize it. Apparently the Howell Nature Center had no other takers for this bird, so when I visited in March he had 7 days left before the folks at Howell would have had to put him down.
Wildlife staff have named the crane "Niles" and "Daphne." Fans of the television show Frasier might appreciate the reference. These two are very tame and curious and should prove to be great additions Perkins Wildlife Center.
See other recent blog posts from the Museum.