American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Common Crane – Texas

On the late afternoon on 11/18, Justin Bosler found an ABA Code 4 Common Crane among a large flock of Sandhill Cranes at Muleshoe NWR in Bailey County, Texas. Pending acceptance this is a first state record for Texas.

Photo by Justin Bosler, used with permission

Photo by Justin Bosler, used with permission

Muleshoe NWR is in the Texas panhandle, just over an hour northwest of Lubbock. The bird was originally seen off of TX-214 south of the refuge, but has not been found since the initial sighting despite some effort this afternoon (11/19). There are still large numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the area, however, it it’s likely that the bird is still in the vicinity even if finding it is like looking for a needle in a pile of very similar needles.

Common Crane was first reported from the ABA Area in 1957.  Most subsequent records come from Nebraska, but many states and provinces in the west have records, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Kansas. Because cranes are so long-lived, its possible that multiple records refer to single individuals showing up among migratory Sandhill Cranes in places where the birds, and naturally birders, congregate. There are also records of Common Crane in the east, in Indiana and Quebec, but the provenance of those records (possibly consisting of a single bird) is considered unclear.

While the origin of some Common Cranes in North America is mysterious, the means by which the species can arrive in North America is not. Lesser Sandhill Crane, G. c. canadensis, has a Siberian breeding population that winters in North America.  In Russia, Common Crane is an uncommon species that breeds in Western Siberia and southern East Siberia and likely joins up with Lesser Sandhills on their way to North American wintering grounds. Once in North America, an individual bird traveling with Sandhill Cranes could conceivably be seen anywhere where numbers of migratory Sandhill Cranes are present.