Sandhill Crane, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

We Solved Another Puzzle | Jan 2016

We Solved Another Puzzle

Sandhill Crane, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, posted in blog: We solved another puzzle

Good news! We solved another puzzle.

If you’re an astute observer of birds, you may notice that something is missing in the above photo of a Sandhill Crane.


Sandhill Cranes have long legs that extend behind them as they fly.

So what’s happening here?

It’s cold.

It’s really cold. The sunrise temperature was 13 F (-10 C) on the morning when I took this photo.

It was so cold that ice had formed on top of the water this bird stood in during the night. When morning came, the bird had to wiggle its legs free and then step up onto the ice before it could fly.

As you might imagine, after spending a night standing in ice cold water, this bird had cold toes.

But birds are smart.

Once in the air, the bird folded its legs, tucking them under its body feathers. That served to warm its toes and conserve body heat during its flight to a feeding area.

Much success,

Steve Kaye

By the way, gain a valuable idea and see a Sandhill Crane with legs at:

Wing Flaps and the Meaning of Flight

Why Silence

Birding Resources

The photo was taken at Bosque del Apache, near San Antonio, NM.

Find more info about this wildlife refuge: Friends of the Bosque del Apache

Did You Know?

The most effective way to help birds is to buy land.

Here are three organizations that excel at doing this.

1) American Bird Conservancy

2) The Nature Conservancy

3) The Trust for Public Land

Please visit their web sites to learn about the work they do.

Here’s an excellent book: The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation

You can help – Please share this blog with others.
Inspiring Respect for Nature, one bird at a time.

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  • Vicki Green
    Posted at 14:24h, 13 January

    Interesting! I don’t see Sandhill Cranes in my area, but do see a lot of great blue herons and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them tuck their legs in like that.

  • Debra Atlas
    Posted at 11:57h, 14 January

    Fascinating story. Thanks for posting this, Steve. Gives me even greater respect for Mother Nature’s creations!

  • Mary
    Posted at 12:39h, 14 January

    Nice shot!

  • Kay Miller
    Posted at 13:13h, 14 January

    I’m camping in Blythe, CA, and these cranes fly over us everyday. Glad to see it close up.. I’ll share the photo with others here.

  • Russ
    Posted at 18:53h, 14 January

    A very cool shot Steve. Naturally, I just assumed it was a JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) launch like we used on some of our SAC bombers during the Cold War with the Russki’s. Then I noticed the lack of a smoke trail, or jet engines for that matter, and realized some new physics were involved. Possibly anti-gravity. Your theory about those big-ole legs tucked-up underneath the feathers is a bit far fetched though, I might need a little more proof of that. As usual, stellar work.

  • Bob Franz
    Posted at 07:05h, 15 January

    Doesn’t need no stinkin’ legs – he’s a waterfowl!

  • Susan Bulger
    Posted at 08:40h, 15 January

    Appreciate your keen observations and your trusty lens. Thanks.

  • Candace Cox
    Posted at 15:43h, 15 January

    So cool! I love your artistic beauty, thanks Steve.. It’s beautiful.

  • John Harvey
    Posted at 05:12h, 16 January

    13 degrees and you were there to capture the shot! Bravo (brave-o!). But do they ever get those legs stuck in the ice? Thanks, Steve.

  • Jesus
    Posted at 23:24h, 17 January

    Beautiful shot and great educational commentary. Thanks Steve!

  • Maia Kincaid
    Posted at 20:41h, 18 January

    Wow another amazing photo and an interesting story too!!! Thank you for sharing your world Steve!

  • Marian
    Posted at 15:09h, 26 January

    Dang! That’s really cold for Bosque del Apache, isn’t it, even for this time of year? The solution to the mystery of the legs makes total sense, when I think about it. Thank you!

  • Deb Callahan
    Posted at 20:39h, 26 January

    We see this often in the San Luis Valley of Colorado when the cranes are here during the Spring Migration.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 02:39h, 29 January

    Nature is so marvelous and provides ways for survival. Great article.

  • Brigitte Noel
    Posted at 13:31h, 26 January

    So strong and hardy in flight, I remember seeing flocks of Sandhill cranes on the ground when driving through southern Idaho on the way to Boise from California years ago. I think it was in the Fall.

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