You might (or might not...) be wondering how I could be so sure that those large bird tracks from Saturday were a sandhill crane, and not our other large, long-legged bird, the great blue heron. The herons return north in February and nest really early, so they are both here at this time of year.
On the left are the tracks from Saturday, and on the right a heron's tracks from a few years ago.
So what is the difference? Can you see?
First of all, the crane's back toe hardly registers. I've recently learned that "real" birders call this toe number 1. The great blue heron's back toe is long, making the entire print about 6 inches long.
Second, and easy to spot once you actually look for it, the heron's toes 1 and 3 are not in a straight line, but are slightly offset. I've added a yellow line to show this more obviously.
Third, and this may not show quite as well in these pictures, the cranes toes 2,3,4 are perfectly symmetrical. The heron's toes 2,3,4 are not, and you can see an angled wedge between toes 2 and 3. The counting goes: back inner, front inner, front next, next (which may be 3rd front, or outer back, depending on the arrangement)
I've learned a lot here, and I think I'll be paying more attention to bird tracks now! Thanks for sharing my obsession for a moment.
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