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What Does The Fearless Sandhill Crane Eat!

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Certainly, Sandhill Crane's Don't Eat Alligators Meat!

A Sandhill Crane in the foreground with an artistic background.
The Sandhill Crane (media by JC)

My family and I encounter the Sandhill Crane each year during the return of Spring. We always marvel at the size and the somewhat fearlessness of this beautiful bird. I call out their courage because they rarely seem to startle when near the public. After seeing the following video, only reinforces my belief. These birds are the real deal!

A video of a Sandhill Crane intimidating an alligator.
Sandhill Crane vs. Alligator

I learned occurrences like the above are not all that rare. With the average Sandhill Crane exceeding three to four feet in height, they look all the more intimidating when they spread their wings. When you deep dive into the history of the Crane, it becomes more apparent as to why these birds continue to thrive. As described on the Audubon site:

Cranes are among the oldest living birds on the planet. A Crowned Crane fossil, a close relative of the Sandhill Crane, was found in the Ashfall Fossil Beds in northeast Nebraska, estimated to be about 10 million years old. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the earliest unequivocal Sandhill Crane fossil, estimated to be 2.5 million years old, was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida.

The Sandhill Crane has been on this planet for at least 2.5 million years, and they have accumulated many instincts. Today’s Sandhill Cranes have a lifespan of a possible 40 years, which isn’t bad for a bird. So what do Sandhill Cranes eat? They have an omnivorous diet which can include grains, plants, worms, small reptiles, and even rodents. (No, they don't eat alligator meat)

Typical breeding occurs within 5 to 7 years of age, and they mate for life. These birds will breed in fields, open wetlands, and prairies across North America. Up close, they are pretty magnificent birds with that reddish crown on their head. I recommend not getting too close!

Two mated Sandhill Cranes standing in a field of grass.
A Pair of Mated Sandhill Cranes (media by JC)

Interesting Facts

  • The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, guttural sound. When my daughter tried to imitate it, she ended up “Coughing.”

  • Sandhill Cranes are known for dancing when courting their mate. This is usually accompanied by outstretched wings (Wingspan up to 7ft) and bending its head up and down. They will then jump up and down in a somewhat graceful fashion. It’s a pretty cool sight to see!

  • These birds can fly at speeds exceeding 30mph and exceed daily distances of 300 miles. With a good tailwind, they can achieve maximum daily distances of 500 miles.

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