Listen to One of Nature's "Most Memorable Anthems"

In the last days of winter, Sandhill Cranes dance along the riverbanks of the central United States.

Sandhill Crane. Illustration: Emily Poole

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society, and is a special excerpt from the recently released anthology BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio ShowWe'll be sharing selections from the book all April. And remember, you can catch BirdNote episodes daily on public radio stations nationwide.


In the rosy glow of a sunrise on a Southwestern marsh, a pair of Sandhill Cranes calls in unison. With a graceful leap, wings outstretched, the two cranes welcome the last days of February.

The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring. The dance begins with a downward bow, the cranes’ long, slender bills nearly touching the ground. Then, like enormous marionettes pulled deftly upward, the cranes leap several feet off the ground, wings outstretched. Bowing and leaping, raising and lowering their wings, the cranes dance on as the sun rises. 

Sandhill Crane pairs remain together for life, and their spirited dance plays an essential role in reaffirming this bond. The cranes’ exquisite dance complements beautifully their rich, rolling calls—one of nature’s most memorable anthems. 

The elegant Sandhills will leap and dance a few days more, before migrating north to nest.


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes [2761] recorded by A.A. Allen; calls of pair of Sandhill Cranes [120249] recorded by G.A. Keller.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Written by Bob Sundstrom

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org     February 2014/2016  

BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Radio Show, edited by Ellen Blackstone, illustrations by Emily Poole, Sasquatch Books, 205 pages, $22.95. Buy it online at Powells.

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