A brave sandhill crane was recently recorded putting a bemused alligator in its place at a Florida golf course. The encounter was filmed by David Scot Schultz at Eagle Creek Golf Course in Orlando on March 24. He recounted to Storyful that he saw the alligator saunter across the 18th fairway and make its way toward a pond. “The sandhill crane was following the alligator across the fairway, which I didn’t think was a good idea,” Schultz explained.
It seems likely that the bird is protecting nearby hatchlings. The crane is probably telling the alligator to leave its territory, that it has overstayed its welcome, and that it shouldn’t have messed with such a powerful bird. Or maybe the gator simply had too much to eat and needs help getting home. Of course, the viral clip was shared on Twitter.
At nearly four feet tall, sandhill cranes are a usual Florida golf course sight. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, these sandhill cranes do not migrate and instead nest in freshwater ponds and marshes within the state. Famous for their intricate courting dances, they mate monogamously and raise their chicks together by taking turns incubating them.
From February to April, Florida sandhill cranes typically nest and are more prone to being aggressive toward predators. During this time, they will often extend their wings and hiss with bills pointed.
Sandhill cranes can be pretty imposing
The cranes frequently give a loud, trumpeting call that suggests a rolled “r” in the throat. Mated pairs of cranes engage in “unison calling”. The cranes stand close together and call in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes two calls for every one from the male.
With wingspans reaching anywhere from 5 to 7 feet, sandhill cranes are excellent at soaring through the skies, similar to hawks and eagles. By taking advantage of thermals–rising columns of air–these birds can stay in flight for hours on end with only occasional flapping necessary. This conserves a great deal of energy. When migrating, sandhill cranes travel in large flocks numbering in the hundreds. These sizable groups make it easy to spot rising thermals that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.
Sandhill cranes fly to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge 100 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico every winter. In their wintering areas, they form flocks over 10,000 strong. Sandhill cranes are social creatures that commonly live in cohorts of two or more all year round. However, during migration and winter, these birds will group together with other unrelated cranes to form what is known as a “survival group.” These groups usually convene at the migration or winter site, sometimes numbering in the thousands.