Whenever a car stops along Swamp Island Drive, a wildlife viewing drive winding through the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, you can almost be sure there’s an alligator basking. But another large swamp inhabitant that will make folks put on the brakes is the Sandhill Crane. These long-legged birds are quite a spectacle for those who haven’t seen them before. I have to admit, when I spotted four along the roadside, I had to stop too! Standing at almost five feet tall, Antigone canadensis are quite impressive birds!
Even if not seen, their strange trumpeting call can be heard throughout the Okefenokee. In 1913, naturalists Albert Wright and Francis Harper wrote of the Sandhill Crane’s call, “Their note is one of the finest sounds of the swamp. It is so unbirdlike, and yet rings so clear, is so far-reaching, and possesses such measured qualities, that the listener longs for an instant repetition.”
While they can be quite secretive, they can be seen foraging on the open prairies, especially on Chesser and Grand Prairie on the eastern side of the Swamp. They scrounge for anything from seeds and berries to insects and small reptiles or amphibians. eBird frequency charts show the Sandhill Crane can be found throughout the year in the Okefenokee, with the highest sightings in the winter months.
- Wright, Albert and Francis Harper. A Biological Reconnaissance of the Okefinokee Swamp: The Birds. The Auk, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct., 1913), pp. 477-505 Published by: Oxford University Press. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4072048