Sandhill Cranes: "Ribeye of the Sky"

by
posted on November 13, 2018
crane.jpg

Photo Courtesy of USFWS

Sandhill cranes can fill the sky in flocks of up to 10,000 as they migrate south for the winter, bodies printing against the sun with their long legs trailing out behind—graceful, elegant and…delicious? Yes! There’s a reason why this migratory bird is known as the “Rib Eye of the Sky,” and it’s because it’s one of the tastiest game birds out there. The meat has been described as tasting a bit like a cross between duck and pheasant, and it’s quite a prize for the savvy hunter.

There are six different subspecies of sandhill crane distributed throughout North America, and their size actually varies rather widely. They stand anywhere from 2½ to 4 feet high, weigh as much as 10 pounds (quite a lot for a bird!), and have wingspans as wide as 7 feet. That tremendous wingspan makes them excellent at soaring, meaning that they can “ride” thermal currents in the air for hours without having to flap their wings often. Interestingly, sandhill cranes have one of the longest fossil histories of any living bird, going back 10 million years.

Sandhill cranes can and do eat insects and small animals, but they mostly prefer a vegetarian diet, especially crops like corn and wheat. Because these animals are easy to see and live on the ground, instead of in treeborne nests, they’re frequently targeted by predators like bobcats, coyotes, foxes and eagles. They’re not completely helpless, though: When attacked, they’ll launch a vigorous attack, kicking with their large feet and stabbing with their bills.

These birds can be legally hunted in many areas. Most hunting tactics mirror those used on waterfowl. It’s crucial that hunters carefully study the bird’s appearance, as there are a number of endangered species (like the whooping crane) that look a bit like the sandhill crane. Also, unlike many birds, male and female sandhill cranes look very similar, with only subtle differences in size.

To read about an adventure hunting this feisty game bird, check out this terrific article from American Hunter's Shawn Skipper!

Latest

Courtesy Winchester Repeating Arms Facebook
Courtesy Winchester Repeating Arms Facebook

What's the Difference Between Gas-Operated & Inertia-Driven Shotguns?

A semi-auto is a semi-auto, right? Not exactly. Each shotgun type has its pros and cons; here's what newbies need to know.

What is FITASC?

Well, for starters, one of the toughest clay target sports in the world...

Exzellent! American Junior Shotgunners Triumph in Germany

USA Shooting’s junior shotgun athletes earned six medals at the ISSF Junior World Cup.

7 Pistol-Shooting Tips For People With Arthritis

Don't let "Uncle Arthur" get between you and the sport you love.

NRA Family Favorites: May 21, 2022

We love our readers ... and we also love to read! Here are some of our favorite stories from around the whole family of NRA publications this past week.

Video Review: Colt King Cobra Target Revolver

This precision wheelgun was designed for sharpshooters, but it's versatile enough for so much more.

Interests



Get the best of NRA Family delivered to your inbox.