Page 7 - Abacoa Community News - April '22
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Abacoa, Page 7
      Northern Notes

      Living With Sandhill Cranes                                                                          an elaborate dance. These
                                                                                                           cranes  nest  during  late
      By Katie Roundtree,                                                                                  winter and early spring on
      Director of Finance and                                                                              mats of vegetation found
      Administration, Northern                                                                             in  shallow  water  such
      Palm Beach County                                                                                    as  preserves  or  marshes.
      Improvement District                                                                                 Sandhill chicks can leave
         Sandhill cranes are long-                                                                         the nest as early as eight
      legged,  long-necked  gray,                                                                          hours after hatching and can
      heron-like birds with a patch                                                                        swim if necessary. Juveniles
      of red skin on their head.                                                                           stay with their parent from 9
      They are distinctive looking                                                                         to 10 months after hatching.
      birds standing almost 4-feet-                                                                           They have been around
      tall  and  can  be  seen  near                     4,000 to 5,000, is a nonmigratory year-round breeding   for a very long time. The
      preserves and wetlands, in parking lots and walking across   resident. They are joined every winter by 25,000 migratory   first known sandhill crane
      roads oblivious to danger. They travel in small groups or   greater sandhill cranes (G. c. tabida), the larger of the two   fossil  was  found  in  the
      pairs sometimes with young in tow.                 subspecies. The greater sandhill crane winters in Florida   Macasphalt  Shell  Pit  in
         Two  subspecies  of  sandhill  crane  occur  in  Florida.   but nests in the Great Lakes region.   Florida. It was estimated
      The Florida sandhill crane (G. c. pratensis), numbering      Sandhill cranes mate for life and attract mates using   to  be  about  2.5  million
                                                                                                           years  old.  They  are  not
                                                                                                           endangered but due to loss of habitat, their populations can be
                                                                                                           of concern in certain areas. They are attracted to open areas
                                                                                                           in urban settings such as golf courses, parks in subdivisions
                                                                                                           and undeveloped land in commercial areas.
                                                                                                              Sandhill cranes are omnivores, which means that they
                                                                                                           eat plants as well as small animals like snails, frogs, worms
                                                                                                           and grubs. They provide natural biological control for
                                                                                                           their grazing areas as they eat these common pests of turf.
                                                                                                           Sandhill cranes have an abundance of natural foods and do
                                                                                                           not need handouts from humans.
                                                                                                              People inadvertently put them in harm’s way when
                                                                                                           feeding them, thinking that they are being kind. It is never
                                                                                                           a good idea to feed wildlife. In fact, in 2002, the Florida
                                                                                                           Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made
                                                                                                           it illegal to feed sandhill cranes (Florida Fish and Wildlife
                                                                                                           Code 68A-4.00(3). Why was this done? Cranes can become
                                                                                                           aggressive when fed by people. When they are used to a
                                                                                                           free meal, they will continue to return and demand it when
                                                                                                           it is not offered. Cranes returning to a yard where they have
                                                                                                           been fed are prone to injury by cars as they cross the street
                                                                                                           to get to the yard. They are also more vulnerable to predation
                                                                                                           by dogs or cats, especially the young cranes. Occasionally,
                                                                                                           birds have been known to cause damage to property as a
                                                                                                           territorial defense behavior upon seeing their reflection in
                                                                                                           cars or window screens. Pesticides in yards and urban areas
                                                                                                           can also be of concern as they forage for food in the ground.
                                                                                                              Look around and enjoy these beautiful birds as they interact
                                                                                                           within our Florida environment. Many of them can be found in
                                                                                                           the preserves and marshes in our area. Give them their space
                                                                                                           if you come across them and be mindful of them crossing or
                                                                                                           walking in our roadways. Finally, please do not feed them for
                                                                                                           the good of the cranes and Florida’s delicate ecosystem. For
                                                                                                           more information, please visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife
                                                                                                           Conservation Commission website at
                                                                                                              NPDES tip: Safely use and dispose of pesticides. If all of the
                                                                                                           pesticide cannot be properly used, check with your solid waste
                                                                                                           management authority to find out when and where to properly
                                                                                                           dispose of this type of hazardous waste.

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