A Sandhill Crane was spotted in the South Fork
Kern River Valley next to the
Audubon Kern River Preserve on Thursday, June 3,
2010 by a team of researchers from the Southern
Sierra Research Station. This
is an extremely rare sighting;
it has been more than 35 years since the last
crane was sighted in the Kern River Valley and
the first summer sighting.
Migratory Sandhill Cranes
return to their
breeding territories hundreds
to thousands of miles north of their wintering
grounds generally in mid-spring.
There are two subspecies of
Sandhill Crane found on the west coast; Greater
(Grus canadensis tabida) and Lesser (Grus
canadensis canadensis). Greater Sandhill
Cranes nest in northeastern California,
Oregon, and Washington
7 April-4 July 1 May. They
nest as far south as Sierra County north of Lake
Feeding: When foraging, prefers open shortgrass
plains, grain fields, and open wetlands
(Grinnell and Miller 1944). Moist sites commonly
used, but also feeds on dry plains far from
water. Feeds on grasses, forbs, especially
cereal crops (newly planted or harvested); also
uses long bill to probe in soil for roots,
tubers, seeds, grains, earthworms, and insects.
Larger prey, such as mice, small birds, snakes,
frogs, and crayfish also are taken. These are
ripped into small pieces before being consumed (Terres
1980). Fruits and berries are eaten if available
(Eckert and Karalus 1981).
Cover: Roosts at night in flocks standing in
moist fields or in shallow water (Terres 1980).
Also roosts in expansive, dry grasslands, island
sites, and wide sandbars (Johnsgard 1975a,
Eckert and Karalus 1981).G. c. canadensis
Probably stable. Unknown due to
G. c. tabida 65-75,000 Increasing rapidly in
the eastern portion
of its range. Generally
populations may be
The 6000-6800 cranes in the Central Valley
population breed mainly in south-central and
southeastern Oregon and northeastern California,
with additional breeding areas up to southern
British Columbia and Vancouver Island (Pogson
1990, Pogson and Lindstedt 1991). In the winter,
these cranes migrate to the Central and Imperial
Valleys of California (Lewis 1977, Littlefield
and Thompson 1979). This population is believed
to be increasing.
Activity Patterns: Yearlong, diurnal activity.
Roosts at night and flies to feeding areas in
flocks (Terres 1980). Migrates by night and day
(Eckert and Karalus 1981).
SeasonalMovements/Migration: Breeding population
from north of California passes southward
through the state in September and October and
northward in March and April, and many
individuals spend the winter. Travels in great
flocks. Migration is rapid and direct; flies
both night and day and stops only for short
periods to feed and rest. California breeding
population winters chiefly in the Central
Home Range: In Florida, Nesbitt (1976) recorded
3 home ranges 1 June to 1 August, averaging 460
ha (1137 ac); individuals moved an average of
8.5 km (5.3 mi) per day within home range.
Migrants sometimes range as far as 8 km (5 mi)
daily from roost to feed (Walkinshaw 1973).
In northern areas, breeding territories may
still be snow-covered when sandhill cranes
arrive. Lesser sandhill cranes returning to
Alaska may encounter frozen lakes and rivers
[16,91] or snow >10 inches (25 cm) deep
.Lesser Alaska 23 May- 6 August 15 June
Beedy, E., 2008. SANDHILL CRANE: Grus
canadensis, DISTRIBUTION, ABUNDANCE, AND SEASONALITY. California
Wildlife Habitat Relationships System California Department of
Fish and Game California Interagency Wildlife Task Group.
Shuford, W. D., and Gardali, T., editors.
2008. California Bird Species of Special Concern: A ranked
assessment of species, subspecies, and distinct populations of
birds of immediate conservation concern in California. Studies
of Western Birds. Species Account: Lesser Sandhill Crane.
Western Field Ornithologists, Camarillo, California, and
California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento.
Zeiner, D.C., W.F.Laudenslayer, Jr., K.E.
Mayer, and M. White, eds. 1988-1990. California's Wildlife. Vol.
I-III. California Depart. of Fish and Game, Sacramento,