Sandhill Crane

Grus canadensis

Sandhill Cranes - Grus canadensis Fields Landing, Lake Allatoona, GA - December, 2013

Sandhill Cranes – Fields Landing, Lake Allatoona, GA

This site is about common birds of Peachtree Park.  So why in the world are we talking about Sandhill Cranes?   It happens that we are on the flyway for the Sandhills as they migrate south each fall.  Because you can sometimes see them and hear their wonderful sound as they fly overhead in formation, it’s worth knowing who they are.

If you are standing in your yard in late October through early December and hear a large flock of  birds passing overhead that sound like Canadian Geese only different somehow, then it’s probably the Sandhills headed south.  These are part of one of six groups of migrating cranes in the U.S. and they are headed from Ohio to Florida. [6]

Sandhill Cranes - Grus canadensis Fields Landing, Lake Allatoona, GA - December 21, 2015

Sandhill Cranes – Grus canadensis

These are big birds and one of the species where the male weighs more than the female; males weigh about 10 pounds and females about a pound less.  Sandhills are elegant and very striking with their red foreheads, white cheeks, and long, dark, pointed bills.  In flight, their long, dark legs trail behind, and their long necks keep straight. [1]

For the last several years they have stopped over to rest and refuel at Lake Allatoona only 45 minutes north of here.  When the Corps ofEngineers releases water from the lake in the fall, sandbars appear, and those sandbars are full of invasive freshwater mussels.  If conditions are right and the sandbars are present, they will feed on these mussels for a few days before continuing their journey.  The video below was taken at Lake Allatoona near Fields Landing in early December, 2013.

Sandhill Cranes - Grus canadensis Fields Landing, Lake Allatoona, GA - December, 2013

Sandhill Cranes -Fields Landing, Lake Allatoona, GA

As many as an estimated 12,000 of these birds now spend the entire winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers just an hour north of Chattanooga in Birchwood, TN.  There’s a Sandhill Crane Festival that’s been held there each year for the past 26 years.  If you’d like a winter weekend away, it’s worth checking out. [7]

References and Additional Information

[1]  Wikipedia: Sandhill Crane
[2]  The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition – David Allen Sibley
[3]  Cornell – All About Birds: Sandhill Crane
[4]  Cornell – All About Birds: Sandhill Crane – sound
[5]  National Wildlife Federation: Invasive Mussels
[6]  U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Sandhill Cranes
[7]  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: Sandhill Crane Festival