Sandhill Crane at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill Crane at Red RocK Lakes National Wildlife RefugeSandhill Crane at Red RocK Lakes National Wildlife Refuge – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

This Sandhill Crane image was taken last year at Red Rock lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Montana. During the summer months the calls of the Sandhills echo across the Centennial Valley which is a prime nesting area for these large birds.

A ten million year old Sandhill Crane fossil from the Miocene period was found in Nebraska which is identical in structure to modern Sandhills. Although that fossil record has been disputed the oldest unequivocal Sandhill Crane fossil is 2.5 million years old, over one and a half times older than the earliest remains of most living species of birds making them the oldest known surviving bird species.

So, each time we see or hear Sandhill Cranes we are listening to and looking at a real living fossil. The cranes still follow the same ancient migration routes too.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Pingback: Stained and Unstained Sandhill Cranes

  2. I saw them in Florida too. I hear they are in Bosque del Apache too, but it’s too hot there!

  3. Humming Bird Lover

    Hi! Great work! It is so beautiful! I enjoyed the history of the bird.

  4. I love the light on this photo!
    Very pleasing, I admire!

  5. Epic detail again. Nicely done.

  6. Beautiful image, I’m sure I’ll see one close up and personal some time soon:)

  7. I find these birds so interesting. Nice habitat shot. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they have been around so long.

  8. I had no idea about the deep fossil record for Sandhills…thanks for dispensing this knowledge.

  9. I love these fossils! We have year-round residents here in central Florida, but at this time of year, the skies and marshes are full of migrants. There haunting cry makes my day! (And my nights, too, lately as the northern visitors fly over.)

    • Wally, I used to like to go to the Celery Fields near Sarasota in the winter to photograph cranes and listen to their calls right before take off, that and the lions nearby that wintered there too. Every time I look at an image of a sandhill Crane I can hear them in my mind. Thanks for your comment.

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