Photo provided by Gary Garton
A sandhill crane was strutting through a field in the Crescent Flats recently. This is a great example of how drastically these birds can literally change the color of their plumage. The reason for the change in color is that sandhill cranes preen themselves by rubbing mud on their feathers. The mud can be either brown or red but is usually red up here in the north. We have lots of iron rich soils in this region. The feathers soak up the mud’s color just like a sponge and it lasts for a long time. It is believed that the birds do this to camouflage themselves during the nesting season. As the summer goes by, the rusty red color eventually wears off and the bird turns back into it’s normal gray color.