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The Sound of Cranes

Victoria Taylor Sluder, Western District Interpretive Services Supervisor

As the year progresses from winter into spring, the mood within the Metroparks moves from the quiet calm of snowy days to the hustle and bustle of the natural world’s New Year.  Populations of birds that stayed all winter begin singing at dawn each day, and their chorus is joined by crowds of spring migrants and newly active frogs and toads.  From the low cooing of mourning doves and tinkling call of spring peeper frogs to the boisterous honking of Canada geese, it seems everyone has something to sing about- and they do.  These songs are all sung with the single purpose of reproduction.

Out of all the sounds you may hear, especially at Kensington Metropark, you will surely notice the distinctive call of Sandhill cranes.  Absent for a short time in the winter, crane flocks are back from the south and enthusiastically trumpeting in stereo.  Pairs of cranes, which have a habit of bonding for life, sing of their partnership in unison.  During the duet, the male begins suddenly and is seconded immediately by the female’s higher-pitched and shorter call.

The resonant notes they belt out have been likened to a French horn. And the unmistakable sound is hard to miss as the call can carry for several miles. This is because a crane’s windpipe can reach a length of five feet, made possible because half that length is looped inside around its breastbone.  Cranes can also physically adjust the shape or length of their windpipes during a call in order to change the pitch and intensity.  All of this adds up to a startlingly unique display that’s a pleasure to witness.

You can see and learn more about these boisterous birds at the Kensington Metropark Nature Center. We’ve just finished installing a beautiful new exhibit highlighting cranes and other park wildlife. Plus our nature trails are a prime area for crane viewing.  So, on your next outing to enjoy spring activities, be sure to stop by and enjoy the sounds.

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