Sandhill Cranes & All


Photo of Greater Sandhill Crane by USFWS HeadquartersSandhill Cranes & All

One of the highlights of my year so far was a trip to Galt to see the Greater Sandhill Cranes, and as many as fifty (50!) other kinds of birds, with friends who are serious birders.

Ancient Birds

Sandhill Cranes as a species are thought to be as much as 10 million years old. Greater Sandhill Cranes grow to be 4.5 to 5 feet in height (as tall as I am!), and their wingspan is 6-8 feet. They’re beautiful in flight and have a really neat call like the creaking of a tall ship. Like other cranes, they also dance while they’re courting, but I’ve never seen this.
I must admit that I usually only remember the giant cranes, and maybe the Tundra Swans and Canada Geese, when I close my eyes and think of Galt. But if you like bird watching, you can see (and hear!) many species in great numbers over there in the Delta.

The racket during the evening flight was incredible. The cranes, geese, and swans rise up out of the fields where they’ve been feeding and fly in to settle in the water, in order to be safe from coyotes during the night. It’s really worth it to stay until dusk so you can witness this gathering. We were there this year on a day of high fog, but on a clear day you can watch the sun set over Mount Diablo, too, as the flocks come in in their V’s.


Here are some links to information about the birds and where to look for them:


While I was at it, I came up with some recommendations for reading about birds. Get these from the San Mateo County Library:

Photo credit: USFWS Headquarters

Author Bio:

Vaughn Harrison works at Half Moon Bay Library and goes out on the new Bookmobile, from which she notices the occasional Great Blue Heron, Egret, and Red-tailed Hawk. That's about it in the feathered dept.


Birds of Heaven

Addendum: I just bought a copy of Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes, by Peter Matthiessen, at our Half Moon Bay Library booksale. The Library has copies of that, too. Matthiessen, author of The Snoew Leopard, travels to several continenets to find the 15 species of cranes, many of which are endangered.

Vaughn Harrison

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