April 12, 2015

Welcome to the weblog for the Coastal Sandhill Crane Project, a project to study the natural history of Sandhill Cranes on the north and central coast of British Columbia, also known as the Great Bear Rainforest. This site was developed during my graduate research on coastal Sandhill Cranes in 2007-2008. I am in the process of updating it, so please bear with any outdated references you may come across.

What’s new: The Coastal Crane Atlas, a project to collect and map data on breeding locations of Sandhill Cranes on the coast of B.C. and southeast Alaska. This is going to happen through a project page on iNaturalist.org, a great open-source site for collecting and sharing observations of all manner of living things. I am looking for people in coastal communities to put up posters to help advertise the Atlas. Please send me an email at krista@pacificwild.org if you would like to help.

We are currently working on a remote camera project with Pacific Wild, a non-profit conservation and education organization based on Denny Island, near Bella Bella. The camera will be set up near a crane nest and will transmit live video to http://www.pacificwild.org.

If you would like to contribute to this project or to the Coastal Crane Atlas, you can do so HERE through Pacific Wild Initiative.

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September 17, 2008

About Sandhill cranes in B.C.

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) are large, long-lived, charismatic, and intelligent birds. Their unmistakable rattling calls can carry up to 5 kilometres. Sandhill cranes are one of the oldest known bird species, with a 9 million year old fossil record. To many human cultures, cranes are symbolic of longevity, loyalty, nobility, and wilderness. They were hunted nearly to extinction in North America in the late 19th century, but are now the most abundant of the world’s 15 crane species due to conservation efforts. However, Sandhill cranes are still hunted in some states and provinces, and their habitat is continually threatened by land-use change and degradation.

A Sandhill crane parent near Bella Bella, B.C. Canadian Sandhill cranes (subspecies rowani) are between 1.07-1.4 m tall, and weigh between 3 and 4.5 kg, with a wingspan of up to 2 m. Males and females look alike, but males are usually larger than females in a pair. Photo: Ingmar Lee, 2007.

Two migratory subspecies (Lesser and Greater Sandhill cranes) and one intermediate form (Canadian) of Sandhill crane are found in British Columbia. Sandhill cranes are blue-listed in B.C., meaning they are a species of special concern. They breed in remote and rugged wilderness areas, and they are particularly sensitive to disturbance. Little is known about breeding distributions, population size, or migration pathways for the different subspecies in B.C. Known breeding areas include much of the Central Interior, Haida Gwaii, the central mainland coast, Mara Meadows near Enderby, East Kootenay Trench, Fort Nelson Lowland, the Fraser Lowland, and northern Vancouver Island. Nesting cranes were likely extirpated from central Vancouver Island and parts of the lower mainland due to loss of habitat and disturbance during the 1930s and 40s1.

To learn more about cranes and crane conservation in Canada and around the world, please visit the International Crane Foundation’s website at www.savingcranes.org. To learn more about sandhill cranes in the Great Bear Rainforest, see the photojournal link in the right hand bar near the top of this page.

About the Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the last tracts of intact temperate rainforest in the world. It covers the coast north from Vancouver Island to Alaska, an area 64,000 km² in size. The area is known for its rare and spectacular wildlife, including the white Kermode or spirit bear, wolves, grizzly bears, and migrating whales of several species, and for its ancient and towering alluvial forests, which shelter wild salmon streams. It is also the home of several First Nations communities, whose traditional territories extend over the entire coast. Most of the GBR is still unprotected from industrial development.

Krista Roessingh, 2007.

This mother wolf has just emerged from the ocean after swimming across a channel from the neighbouring island. Photo: Krista Roessingh, 2007.

The outer coast of the GBR is a narrow band of island archipelago and lowlands with rough, low topography, convoluted shorelines, and productive estuaries. Due to the influences of a hypermaritime climate and mineral-poor bedrock, large expanses of blanket mire complex have formed on the outer coast of B.C. The blanket mire complex is a mosaic of open, shrubby, and woodland bog types, with vegetation that is distinct from interior and boreal regions2. Many islands in the archipelago feature fringes of old-growth forest with upland mosaics of bog and fen wetlands and scrub bog forest.

Krista Roessingh, 2007.

Bog complex on Denny Island. Photo: Krista Roessingh, 2007.

1 Information about Sandhill cranes in B.C. has been compiled by John M. Cooper in: Cooper, J. M. 1996. Status of the Sandhill crane in British Columbia. Wildlife Bulletin. Vol. B-83. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Wildlife Branch, Victoria, British Columbia.

2 Mackenzie, W.H., and J.R. Moran. 2004. Wetlands of British Columbia: A guide to identification. Resource Branch, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. B.C. Land Management Handbook No. 52.