Winter visitors a welcome sight for local bird lovers
For the last several years, migrating sandhill cranes have been spending the winter months in north Walton County in Paxton. Foraging in a wetland area and private pasture near Lake Jackson, more than 24 sandhill cranes spend several months in the area every year.
Typically migrating in mid-December and staying until mid-March, the cranes are a welcome sight.
With a wingspan of 73 inches and standing more than 41 inches tall, the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is one of the largest birds in North America. There are several subspecies of the sandhill crane with the Lesser Sandhill (Northern) migrating from the northern U.S. and the Greater Sandhill (Southern) year-round residents in southern Florida.
Sandhill cranes are omnivores, eating mostly grains and seeds, some insects, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. The cranes are primarily birds of open fresh water wetlands, but the different subspecies utilize habitats that range from bogs, meadows, and open grasslands.
Sandhill Cranes are heavy bodied, long-necked, long-legged birds with bugling calls, often heard well before the birds are seen. The birds are also known for their elaborate courtship dancing. They are among the oldest living birds.