Science Diary: Okefenokee – Sandhill Monogamy
Music; Ambience: sandhill cranes
Campbell: “Cranes pair bond. That’s why they’re a symbol of marriage and lifelong commitment in many cultures.”
Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Chip Campbell is a naturalist in Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
“They take a mate. They stay together, and you always see them in a pair like that, and when you see three, you’re seeing a pair with a chick that they raised this past year. Soon, the juveniles will go out on their own. It’s called a peer group, and when mama and daddy crane get ready to make more little cranes, junior has to go away.”
Okefenokee’s year-round residents, the Florida Sandhill cranes, begin to mate once their migratory cousins fly north sometime in mid-February.
“We’ll see some groups of cranes still moving around. That fools people sometimes. They think, you know, ‘Well, we’ve still got some migratory birds here.’ It’s not. It’s the kids on a group date, and out of that peer group, they will form a bond with another bird, and then, from that point on, they will live together in a pair.”
And despite having new birds in town for several months each year, when it comes to mating, the resident and the migratory cranes each tend to keep to themselves. Here’s a recording we made of some resident cranes in Okefenokee just at the time when their migratory cousins were leaving.
“There was a naturalist who once observed that the three great voices of the southern wilderness were the Barred Owl, the bellow of the alligator, and this rattling, trumpeting call of the Florida Sandhill crane.”
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.