The Fattest, Weirdest Sandhill Crane I’ve Ever Seen

Some birds just have a different look about them.


sandhill crane 1898 ron dudley

1/2000, f/8, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this strange-looking Sandhill Crane five days ago at Farmington Bay. It’s so chunky that to my eye it almost looks like a turkey and it’s missing the signature red crown of the Sandhill Crane.

But wait, it isn’t a Sandhill Crane after all.



sandhill crane 1901 ron dudley

1/2000, f/8, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

It’s two Sandhill Cranes – an adult in the front and an almost full-grown colt. The adult had been preening with its head hidden under its left wing and the colt hasn’t yet developed the red crown.

I’m sure most folks weren’t fooled for long (some may have spotted it immediately) by the first image because of the extra pair of legs but I suspect it took some longer than others to sort it all out. I thought the juxtaposition of the bodies of the two birds was pretty effective at fooling the eye for a moment, until we noticed the presence of four legs.

I hope you’ll forgive the misleading tomfoolery in my title and early text but I enjoyed the transition from the first image to the second and decided to have a little fun with it. It was something I needed this morning.


31 comments to The Fattest, Weirdest Sandhill Crane I’ve Ever Seen

  • Barbara Gleason

    Good one! Reminds me of the time Dan and I came upon a Black-necked Stilt that appeared to have “props” on her breast as she sat somewhat squat on a beach in Southern California. We looked, looked again and thought: “Huh?!” Then, to answer our curiosity, she stood up and two wee youngsters dropped down out of her breast to land softly on the sand and go walking along ahead of her!

  • Roger Burnard

    Yep, it always pays to “count the legs…” Ha

  • jeff

    Love it! This would of been a great fools day picture! First thought was how did a crane head get on a turkey body. Definitely had me for a moment or two!

  • Got me. I didn’t even check the legs. 😀

  • Love it.
    You have become the ‘Dynamo’ of bird photography.
    I didn’t like hearing that you ‘needed’ fun. I hope all is much more better today.

    • Thanks for your concern, EC. Nothing too serious, just the pressure of doing something new today and that always makes me tense. It turned out well though and I needn’t have worried.

  • Susan Stone

    I should probably mention that the “Flamibis” photo was taken at a bird zoo (Jurong Bird Park in Singapore) – not sure those birds are ever together in the wild.

    • Patty Chadwick

      “Flamibis” sounds like one of the few medical problems I DIDN’T have this year!!! Sure hope it’s not contagious….

      • Susan Stone

        Patty, I’m so sorry you’ve been beset my medical problems this year. As I’m learning, growing older isn’t for sissies. I wish I could include the “Flamibis” photo. You’d love it. The similarity to Ron’s Sandhill Crane is striking.

  • Susan Stone

    Love that you posted this! The four legs were immediately apparent, even though I couldn’t tell exactly what else was going on. Reminds me of a photo I took of a “Flamibis” – a similar situations where the bird had a Flamingo body and an Ibis head and neck. It didn’t hurt that a Scarlet Ibis was involved…

  • susan aka blue

    Ok Ron, you got me. You did set us up with “the-fattest-weirdest-sandhill-crane-I’ve-ever-seen” though. Of course, in the world of magic and magicians this is called misdirection, AKA Flim Flam!

  • Kris Eberhard

    For a second there, I thought there’d been some hanky- panky between a crane and a wild turkey–and it “took” ! Sometime you just have to create your own
    fun and amusement, and I’m glad that you do !

  • Patty Chadwick

    You can’t fool me! That’s obviously a grossly obese, four-legged Sandhill…we have a lot of them here in the East. They get that way eating pizza and guzzling HUGE, illegal sodas….

  • Hi Ron, You could have saved that one for April 1st.

  • Deborah Rehnstrom

    Well, that first photo sure did trick the eye! Love it! A four legged colt with an eating disorder!!!
    Thx for the fun!

  • Jorge H. Oliveira

    The first thing that caught my attention was the two dark legs, then I saw the other two and said to myself what is this – a bird with four legs? And for a silly split second I thought about those calves born with five legs, but I never heard it happened with birds…
    Only then I got the answer. The juxtaposition is perfect.
    Thanks.It was funny and hope you’ll have more mornings like these.

    • Thanks for the positive feedback, Jorge. To be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure how this kind of a post would be received so I’m glad to hear that you appreciated it.

  • Fun! Thanks. Missed the four legs, did spot that it was a colt.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Love it! I was so concentrated on your description, I didn’t even notice the 4 legs. LOL Thanks for this tomfoolery.