Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's the matter with this sandhill crane?

This sandhill crane behaved oddly after eating birdseed that had fallen on the ground.  It looked like he/she is trying to cough up something that might be stuck in his/her throat.  But nothing comes up.  I've watched sandhill cranes for several years and have never seen one behave like this before.  Eventually it stopped coughing and seemed fine.  I just really wish I knew what happened.  Any ideas?


  1. I don't think birdseed is typically part of sandhill crane diet. It probably was difficult to swallow and irritated its throat.

    "Sandhill cranes are mainly herbivorous, but eat various types of food, depending on availability. They often feed with their bills down to the ground as they root around for seeds and other foods, in shallow wetlands with vegetation or various upland habitats. Cranes readily eat cultivated foods such as corn, wheat and sorghum. Waste corn is useful to cranes preparing for migration, providing them with nutrients for the long journey.[17] Among northern races of sandhill cranes, the diet is most varied, especially among breeding birds. They variously feed on berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles and amphibians." - Wikipedia

    1. I imagine the crane did stuff herself with too much birdseed and that's probably why she was coughing. By the way, she's fine today. She's back again to peck the ground beneath the birdfeeder for more dropped seeds.

      The cranes have been frequenting and often nesting on our lakeside property for years and I've watched them feed on a variety of foods, mostly insects and grubs they find in the ground. I have noticed, however, that prior to nesting time, the female stuffs herself with as much grains as she can get, often taking advantage of an easy meal on the ground under birdfeeders. I assume this is because she will soon be reproducing and is trying to store up extra nutrients for the long days of spent incubating eggs.

      This is not behavior unlike what wikipedia (and other sources) say cranes do before migration. Our cranes, however, aren't migratory birds. They are a subspecies that lives year round in FL.

      To read more about the sandhill cranes on our property - including photos and articles about the baby cranes - search this website (search box below right) or click on the topics of interest link (below right) for sandhill cranes.