Sandhill Cranes Facts and Their Winter Home

"Sandhills of Bernardo"The Middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico is a major migration route and the winter home for thousands of sandhill cranes.

The quality of the winter habitat is critical since the sandhills congregate in high densities and are dependent on limited food resources.    The primary food source on which the sandhills feed is waste corn.

The sandhills roost in shallow water each night where they seek protection from their predators, especially coyotes.  Cranes seek isolated locations with minimal human disturbance.  The ideal roost sites are within 10 miles of feeding sites.  During the day hundreds of sandhills can be seen in the farmland fields of the river valley pecking away at cornfield stubble.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and migrate south as a family unit.   Sandhill cranes pairs usually raise only one young each year.  The breeding range of sandhills include  Alaska, Canada, western Quebec, and northern and western United States, although sandhills can be found as far north as Siberia.  There are resident population (non-migratory) sandhills in southern Florida and Cuba. The life expectancy of a Sandhill Crane is upwards of 30 years.

A crane fossil estimated to be 10 million years old, was found in Nebraska.  The fossil matches the structure of the modern day sandhill crane which makes the sandhill crane the oldest known bird species still surviving.

About the Photographs:

 "Wings of Fire" and "Sandhills of Bernardo"


"Wings Of Fire"The “Wings of Fire” photograph was taken at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, while “Sandhills of Bernardo” was taken at the Bernardo Waterfowl Area just north of Bosque del Apache.  Both wildlife areas feature shallow ponds created from diverted water of the Rio Grande to create a waterfowl habitat ideal for Sandhill Cranes as well as other migratory birds.  The staff at both areas cultivate hundreds of acres of corn and grain crops to provide winter feed for the migratory birds.  The beautiful landscape is completed by naturally occurring cottonwood and other trees taking advantage of the natural irrigation provided by the Rio Grande, as well as the mountains on both sides of the valley.

In “Wings of Fire”, the sandhill crane’s wings reflect the rays of the setting sun as he flies in for his evening roost in the pond.

In “Sandhills of Bernardo” the birds in the sky are also Sandhill Cranes flying in from the fields for their evening roost.

return to Sandhill Cranes index