Sandhill Cranes: Up Close and Personal

Driving into Homer, Alaska one summer we encountered this beautiful pair of gray and rust colored sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) foraging on an expansive lawn. Cranes are opportunists, and although they are mainly herbivores seeking grains and seeds, they supplement their diet with insects, small mammals and other animals they encounter.

Bird weights can be deceptive due to their hollow bones. Even though adults have wingspans of six to seven feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) and stand four to five feet tall (1 to 1.2 meters), they typically weigh less than 10 pounds (4 kilograms).

Since cranes are hunted in Alaska and can be quite wary, we felt lucky to find a pair that wasn’t too skittish. 

Other times we’d seen cranes, they were flying overhead, or, as was the case one summer in Yellowstone, far out on a plain. 

We stalked them for awhile, snapping photos, gauging our distance without spooking them into flight, and then we left the couple to continue their hunting. 

Of course, this being Alaska, when we looked up from the field where we’d been intently watching the cranes, this is what we saw – the Kachemak Glacier, which flows out of the Harding Icefield.