8 Interesting Facts About Sandhill Cranes

Meet the prehistoric bird that has been around for 2 million years.

1. During migration, 75 percent of the sandhill crane population can be found along a 75-mile stretch of the Platte River in Nebraska.

2. Sandhill crane offspring can be ready to leave the nest and even start swimming just eight hours after they hatch. Although the chicks are independently mobiles, they will stay with their parents up to 10 months after being born.

3. A female sandhill crane usually lays two pale-colored eggs with brown markings. She shares incubation duties with her mate for up to 32 days.

4. Both parents build a nest from cattails, sedges and grasses, but it’s unknown which parent chooses the nesting site. Nests can be up to 40 inches across and 6 inches high. (Read more: Meet the Best Bird Dads Around)

5. The oldest known sandhill crane fossil was found in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida and is estimated to be 2.5 million years old.

6. Sandhill cranes mate for life and attract their parents via a courtship dance with moves like jumping into the air, bobbing their heads and stretching their wings to span up to 7 feet.

7. During migration, these cranes may travel more than 200 miles a day. They’re fast fliers, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.

8. Most of their diet (90 percent) is plant material, including waste grain, roots, berries, and nuts. Insects and snails are on the menu, too.

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