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.