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Your morning adorable: Sandhill crane chicks try to keep up with their mother

March 22, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Sandhill cranes

These two sandhill crane chicks are only a few days old, so they haven't come anywhere close to reaching their adult stature -- but they sure are cute when they're so tiny. As adults, they'll be pretty large as birds go, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet.

Sandhill cranes are fascinating birds that can be found throughout much of North America. Although they occupy a large range, more than 75% of all sandhill cranes descend on one small part of the Platte River in Nebraska on their way to warmer climates during their annual migration. (Not all sandhill cranes migrate, however; a few subspecies native to parts of the southern U.S. and Cuba stay put in the winter.)

Beyond their graceful, svelte looks and interesting migration paths, there's a lot to be fascinated with about the sandhill crane. Sandhills are known for their tendency to make elaborate vocalizations, including the so-called unison call that's only performed by mated pairs.

Perhaps most interesting, sandhills are known for their balletic dance skills, which can include impressive leaps, bows, wing-flapping and even tossing sticks and grass. "Dancing is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and thwarts aggression, relieves tension and strengthens the pair bond," according to the International Crane Foundation, an advocacy group.

Crane

Above, the chicks are fed by their mother. Below, a group of sandhills can be seen "dancing" in a field in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Photos: Sandhill crane chicks follow their mother in Florida's East Manatee County. Credit: Grant Jefferies / McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Video: CB750K8 via YouTube

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