by Clark LaGrange
Sandhill Crane At The Backyard Buffet
Did you know sandhills walk great distances for food? However, there are two sandhills that have discovered a shortcut to a place where they can quickly satisfy their healthy appetites.
I happen to live in a suburban neighborhood near Orlando, Florida. One day I looked out my window and saw two sandhills foraging the ground near my bird feeders. It seems there is an abundant wealth of birdseed scattered there by my regular visitors of cardinals, doves, blue jays, woodpeckers, tits, and sparrows.
For a couple of months, these sandhills would daily visit the feeders in my front and side yards. Then one day they caught a glimpse of my feeder station outback.
Most of the area behind my house is enclosed by trees and shrubbery. The sandhills just stood at the entrance to my backyard, peering in but reluctant to make the venture to this newfound food source. They did this for at least a week.
One would stand rigidly at attention and was constantly alert to any danger this unexplored territory might present, while the other probed lazily in the grass.
Once the sentinel decided the area was safe, they both slowly approached what I fondly refer to as my bird condo and began to eat. This has now become a daily stopping point on their trek around the neighborhood.
Though I’m not quite sure what our little birds think about having a crane hanging around who can stick its beak up onto their platform feeder.
A month or so later, I was sitting in the living room with my wife watching our favorite “live” feeder cam on YouTube, when I was startled by one of my sandhills looking in at me through the front window.
Immediately I went outside to see if I could figure out what was going on. They just stared at me.
Have you ever had a sandhill stare you down? They have these intense red eyes that can be quite unnerving!
I walked around and inspected my bird feeders and soon discovered what I believed to be the reason behind this unusual behavior.
All my bird feeders were empty … which resulted in no birdseed on the ground! I went and grabbed a bag of wild bird seed out of the garage. You should have seen those two sandhills!
They came running after me like two pet dogs waiting for their bowls to be filled with food. Needless to say, I now keep a closer watch on the level of food in my feeders.
One thing I learned quite an by accident is that sandhills have a voracious appetite for peanuts.
I always like to place a couple of peanuts on my platform trays for the blue jays.
On one particular day, my sandhills happened to be feeding a few feet away from me. On a whim, I tossed a peanut on the ground to see what would happen. I have never witnessed a peanut so completely dissected and shredded with such speed and ferocity.
They will also jump several feet in the air with wings spread wide when you lob a nut in the air. It’s quite a spectacle!
But probably the most endearing quality of the sandhill is their noisy and abrasive, trumpet-like honk! It sort of reminds me of an impatient customer in a fast-food drive-thru.