By Michelle Michaud
The distinctive clarion call of sandhill cranes will soon echo around the skies of Homer as we welcome their arrival to begin another breeding season. Some cranes begin nesting shortly after arrival, while others may display elaborate pair bonding rituals and dances waiting up to a month to begin nesting.
Kachemak Crane Watch and the International Crane Foundation will be completing the final year of their three-year sandhill crane nesting ecology study.
“We hope to find additional nesting cranes this year,” said Nina Faust, co-founder of Kachemak Crane Watch. According to Michelle Michaud, wildlife biologist working on the project, there are 35 confirmed breeding pairs, but more are suspected.
“Most cranes nest on private property so landowner cooperation is imperative to learn where and when cranes nest, as well as the type of habitat used for nesting,” Michaud said.
Along with learning about crane nests, Michaud also monitors chick (colt) survival.
“We want to know how many eggs are laid, how many hatch, and how many of the hatched chicks survive to the fledgling stage when they are able to fly and with luck escape predators,” she explained.
So what should landowners look for? Cranes observed in pairs are either breeding pairs or sub-adults searching for their life-mate.
If you see a crane pair on your property, Kachemak Crane Watch would like to know about it; especially if you suspect the pair may be nesting. Email Michaud at: firstname.lastname@example.org, send information to email@example.com, or call 399-3159.
“With the landowner’s permission, Kachemak Crane Watch wants to get a general idea where the nest is located so that once the eggs hatch, Michelle can unobtrusively search for the nest and collect the necessary data for the study, including vegetation, nest size, nest photos, and GPS location,” Faust said. “Michelle will then periodically track the pair and their colts to determine whether the colts fledge or not.”
“We would like to know what happens to those colts that do not survive,” said Edgar Bailey, co-founder of Kachemak Crane Watch. “Dogs, eagles, coyotes and other animals prey on young crane chicks, as well as crane adults. Flightless colts are particularly susceptible to dogs running loose and are also killed by vehicles.”
For more information, photos and videos on sandhill cranes and the nesting ecology study, please visit www.Cranewatch.org.
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