SANDHILL CRANE – (Antigone canadensis)
The Sandhill crane is a large bird at around 120 cm (4 ft), slightly less than the Great blue heron. The plumage is grey with ochre overtones. A distinctive feature of the sandhill crane is a red forehead. The bill and legs are almost black. Both sexes are similar. There are many subspecies with different distribution areas. When flying, as opposed to the heron family, cranes keep their long necks straight.
Sandhill cranes forage in grassland and prairie marshes, looking for seeds and insects. This bird has an elaborate courtship ritual. This species dates back to almost 10 million years, one of the oldest known still existing.
The sandhill crane owes its English name to the area (sandhills) where it is found in the western USA. In addition to the Latin name ‘grus’, which means ‘crane’, it has another name, ‘antigone’. )Its main breeding territory is mostly in western Canada (hence the Latin name) starting from Ontario, and parts of Alaska. They are very social birds, and when migrating they can form very large flocks. They also fly very high during migration.
The sandhill crane does not breed on PEI and its sightings are recorded as either occasional, accidental, or rare depending on the seasons. For example, one bird was photographed in the Malpeque area in October 2012, and another one was seen at PEI Cabot Provincial Park in the fall of 2013. The photo below is from Manjith Kainickara.