Greater Sandhill Crane

1/3200s at f5.6., ISO:2000, Canon EOS-1D X w/800mm

The Sandhill Crane is a large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. It's large wingspan, which is 6 to 8 feet when fully grown, makes this a very skilled soaring bird similar in style to hawks and eagles. Utilizing thermals to obtain lift, they can stay aloft for many hours, requiring only occasional flapping of their wings and consequently expending little energy. Their breeding habitat is marshes and bogs in central and northern Canada, Alaska, part of the Midwestern and southeastern United States, Siberia and Cuba. They nest in marsh vegetation or on the ground close to water. The female lays two eggs on a mound of vegetation, but it is rare that both chicks hatch and grow to independence. Cranes mate for life; both parents feed the young, called colts, who are soon able to feed themselves. The colts are taught to fly over many weeks when they run and dance with their parents. Dancing is a significant component in the education of young cranes. The Sandhill Crane does not breed until it is two to seven years old, and the average generation time is 12.5 years. It can live up to 25 years in the wild; in captivity it has been known to live more than twice that span. Mated pairs stay together year-round and migrate south as a group with their offspring.
Bosque del Apache, N.W.R. New Mexico