Friday, September 5, 2008

Strange bird in Cades Cove

I would appreciate any help with identification of this bird. This was in Cades Cove on Labor Day. First thought was a Heron. Cades Cove is a valley in the GSMNP with streams running through it. The Cove has an 11 mile loop road and is a gorgeous place to visit. When we were there all of the small streams were dry, even though we had rain for a couple of days the week before. The rain was so needed the creek beds were just damp. So what would a Heron be doing in a area like this? I know the photographs are not great, but I could not get any closer. Any suggestions to what it is?


UPDATE...from the comments I have been told it is a Sandhill Crane. Went to my reference book and it sure looks like one. They are not suppose to be in the area. Although it is between their breeding range (Canada) and their year round range (Florida). Their winter range is Southwest Texas and Mexico, which would not put him here if migrating. Not sure what he is/was doing in the Smoky Mountains, may have just been stopping to eat along his way. The Stokes reference book does say they summer on prairies, maybe our pasture fields are like his prairie.

UPDATE to the UPDATE....please be sure to read the comment Ecobirder posted for me. He has some great information about this bird. Ecobirder's blog is always loaded with information about what he is posting, a great blog to visit. Thank you Ecobirder.

7 comments:

NW Nature Nut said...

I think it's a Crane (Sandhill crane?). I see Herons in dry fields too. I think they eat mice sometimes. These guys might as well.

Lynne said...

Sandhill Crane!! Nice find Leedra! Nice pix too.

Red said...

they sure are funny looking birds! good eye though Leedra :)

Ecobirder said...

I agree it is definetely a sandhill crane. You are probably correct in assuming that it stopped over on its way migrating south. Although he is a bit early, most of the sandhill cranes in our area have not headed south yet.

During the spring the sandhills travel in huge groups. They typically stop over at the Platte River in Nebraska on the way north in the spring. They like the Platte because it is fairly wide but shallow with sandbars in the middle. This gives the cranes a safe place to roost at night.

In the fall they seem to migrate south in much smaller groups, each group or individual taking its own path south. They often stop in agricultural areas during migration to check out fields for left over crops to eat.

Good places to see sandhills cranes across the US are: Crex Meadows, WI, Carlos Avery, MN, and Yellowstone during the spring and summer, Platte River during migration, or Aransas NWR,TX, Rio Grand,TX and the Bosque Del Apache, NM during the winter.

Denise said...

Well, I have learned something today. Lovely picture of the Crane.

Mary C said...

That sure is interesting that the bird was alone since they usually travel in flocks. Great find, though, Leedra! I wonder if the bird was lost.

Lynne said...

Leedra- I had a second look and am still sure it's a sandhill crane. Ecobirder had some good info on them. I'm not sure why a lone sandhill is in your area. Is there a local birding group you could report it to? Maybe they would have info on how frequently they show up there. I've seen a few up here in Minnesota. Your photos are wonderful- they're such elegant birds.