|Written by Jennifer Smith|
|Wednesday, 17 October 2012 01:37|
This past weekend was Cranefest, a festival celebrating the Sandhill Crane hosted by Michigan Audubon in Convis Township, just north of Battle Creek. The Sanctuary hosts an informational booth as part of the Festival each year. The Sandhill Crane is a large, long-legged bird that is about four feet tall, with a wingspan of about six feet. It is characterized by a patch of bright red, bare skin on its forehead and the top of its head, and a “bustle” of feathers on its rump. They are also well-known for their elaborate courtship rituals.
Sandhill Cranes are one of the oldest bird species in the world, and there are six subspecies ranging from Siberia to Cuba, and covering much of North America. They prefer to live in open grasslands and freshwater marshes. Sandhill Cranes eat a wide variety of food items, including grains, seeds, insects, and aquatic invertebrates. In the fall, they are often found in harvested agricultural fields, where they eat the leftover grain.
Depending on the subspecies, Sandhill Cranes will breed between two and seven years of age. They are monogamous, and the families will stay together for around nine months. They can live upwards of 20 years in the wild.
In the fall, Sandhill Cranes migrate to their wintering grounds in Texas and Central America. They will fly in flocks of two to around a hundred birds, and gather in the thousands at night. At Cranefest, people from around Southwest Michigan gathered to celebrate the Cranes. There were guided nature hikes and vendors, as well as chats about native animals. At around 5 o’clock, the cranes started coming in.
It was absolutely amazing to witness all of the Cranes flying into the marsh. The noises they make sound positively prehistoric! Three thousand Cranes were counted in the marsh on Friday night. Cranefest took place at the Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary, near Bellevue, Michigan. The Cranes will continue to come through this area for the rest of the month and through November. Be sure to head out to a Sandhill Crane hotspot some time this fall! The experience is definitely worth it!