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.



  1. M. Firpi November 27, 2012 at 5:31 am

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

    • Mia McPherson November 29, 2012 at 4:07 am

      Hi Maria, by the time the cranes get to New Mexico it is winter and it gets very cold at Bosque.

  2. Humming Bird Lover November 26, 2012 at 9:29 am

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

  3. Noushka November 26, 2012 at 1:59 am

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

    • Mia McPherson November 29, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thank you very much Noushka.

  4. Rohrerbot November 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Epic detail again. Nicely done.

  5. Susan November 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson November 29, 2012 at 4:05 am

      I hope you do get to see one close up and personal soon Susan.

  6. Julie Brown November 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

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

  7. Seagullsteve November 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm

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

  8. Wally November 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

    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.)

    • Mia McPherson November 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

      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.

  9. Bob Bushell November 25, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Nice Crane photo.

    • Mia McPherson November 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Thanks much for commenting Bob.

Comments are closed.