Cranes often roost at night in water. This protects them from predators and allows the birds to stay dry during rain or snow storms. They prefer ponds, rivers, and other shallow water where the water is not too deep and does not come above their heels. They also like the area to be free of trees and other cover for about 100 yards all round them so that they can easily keep watch for predators. This is why it is important not to fill in natural wetlands, to use chicken wire over vegetable or flower gardens, to remove any bird feeders and other sources of spilled seeds, and to keep pets away from areas where cranes are roosting.
During their long migration flights, cranes can fly at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet. They rest during the day at traditional roosting sites such as the Platte River in Nebraska. They are known to travel together in family groups and some states even hold a “crane festival” in the spring to celebrate the arrival of this impressive bird.
Sandhill cranes choose their mating partner, which they will remain with for life, through elaborate dancing displays that include jumping, bowing, bending over and picking up and tossing vegetation. Their synchronized calls can be heard from a great distance. The male and female look almost identical and the only way to tell them apart is through their unique calls. The male’s call is lower in pitch and longer in rhythm than the female’s.