LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The bird of the week for this week is the Sandhill Crane.
This is not a bird that regularly appears in Arkansas, In fact, it is listed as very rare to uncommon here, depending on the time of year. Unlikely as it is, the best time to see this bird in our state is the end of September through mid-May. There have been some recent sightings of seven Sandhill Cranes at Frazier Pike in Pulaski County, and 3 individuals at Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Russellville.
People in Arkansas most often hear this species before they see them, and I have seen them most often in this way as they were flying in relatively small flocks far overhead.
Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America. They group together in great numbers, filling the air with distinctive rolling cries. Mates display to each other with exuberant dances that retain a gangly grace.
Sandhill Crane populations are generally strong, but isolated populations in Mississippi and Cuba are endangered. This is one of very few bird species that really does mate for life! Although some start breeding at two years of age, Sandhill Cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. They mate for life-which can mean two decades or more-and stay with their mates year-round. Juveniles stick close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching.