Home / News / Sandy the dune crane settles into new digs at the Smithsonian National Zoo – Chicago Tribune

Sandy the dune crane settles into new digs at the Smithsonian National Zoo – Chicago Tribune


Sandy, a 6-year-old sandhill crane who left Porter County last month to establish a new home at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., emerged from quarantine on Thursday and eventually joined other cranes permanently. He and the male and female sandhill cranes currently living at the zoo raised their beaks to the sky and made some noise.

“Too noisy. It is described as a trumpet,” said Sara Hallager, the Smithsonian’s bird curator. “It’s a very loud call. “He seemed happy to see other cranes.”

Sandy’s association with others of her kind lasted a long time. When she was about a year old, she was hit by a car and taken to Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators in Columbus.

The abscessed foot, which was badly damaged and took a long time to heal, meant Sandy became very social with people. “He was here alone. We were his flock,” said director Kathleen Hershey.

When Utopia heard there was a dune crane Humane is being rehabilitated at Indiana Wildlife In Valparaiso, they asked Sandy if she could try living together. It was successfully transported in late October and the two were together for a short time, but that bird managed to reintegrate into the wild, while Sandy, with its damaged wing, was not able to do so.

“Sandhill cranes appear to be very curious on the surface,” said Humane Indiana Wildlife Director Nicole Harmon. “We saw this in Sandy as well. He immediately started digging in sawdust and straw (in his new Valparaiso habitat). “They are very active birds.”

Harmon contacted the Smithsonian, with whom he already had relationships for songbird transplants, and they agreed to take him to their flock of two sandhill cranes, Ross’s geese and turkeys. Sandy arrived in Washington on Jan. 13 after volunteers from Humane Indiana Wildlife transported her in a special crate designed for her long body.

It is not yet known whether Sandy is a female, as mature sandhill cranes are similar by gender. Some of Sandy’s feathers were collected Thursday and sent for DNA analysis, which will determine Sandy’s gender definitively; but breeding is not a goal in rehabilitated sandhill cranes, Hallager said.

Sandy the sandhill crane is in her enclosure at Humane Indiana Wildlife before being transferred to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, where she will join a flock of other cranes, turkeys and geese.– Original Credit: Humane Indiana Wildlife

Although the mid-Atlantic region, where the Smithsonian is located, is not a common home for sandhill cranes, they do see them migrating from north to south. From the zoo’s perspective, the exhibit Sandy is now a part of is an opportunity to educate Americans about native species and the story of migration.

“They know a lot about animals in other parts of the world, but they know nothing about animals in North America,” Hallager said of most Americans. “The number of birds in North America is declining quite rapidly.”

He said Sandy can now play a role in educating people about bird-friendly ways to live so sandhill cranes can adapt. These omnivorous birds live 30 to 50 years in the wild and close to 50 years in captivity, so after many years of being alone, Sandy has many years ahead of her to spend with the cranes.

“We are so excited to be able to give Sandy a home,” Hallager said. “We didn’t know he was this famous, it was so exciting.”

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.


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