Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
A few days ago, while driving south of Finlayson, Jude and I found a family of Sandhill Cranes, two adults and one juvenile. It's hard to tell with the birds standing in tall grass, but by its 40th day the young bird should have legs near adult size, and in this case the young bird is pretty close if not there. That gives us a guess as to this bird's age. Take a look at the colt's bill: when it is two months old the bill should be adult size. The juvenile will complete growth to adult size in 10 months.
The female likely produced two eggs. Chances are the second chick was killed by its sibling -- competition for food can be fierce -- or taken by a predator. These birds were foraging in a field of tall grass. Cranes are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of animal and vegetable items. This field looked good for bugs, frogs, and a variety of insects. First-year survival for the colt has odds of eight in 10. Mean life expentancy for any bird reaching age of independence -- that 10-month mark -- is about seven years.
We stopped the car on the side of the road opposite the forage field. Photos were taken from the car. The adult birds were alert throughout, eating at a halt, all attention given to us.
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