These are magnificent large birds. I rounded a corner on my mountain bike early one morning in the south hills and had to lock up my brakes to not hit one. One just doesn’t expect to round a corner and run into a large bird like this in the hills. It stood taller than my handlebars. I was dazzled. I didn’t immediately even understand what prehistoric creature I was encountering. I’d never been that close to a Sandhill Crane before. The pair didn’t fly away immediately, but walked quickly up the hillside, which allowed my biking buddy coming up behind me the chance to see them too. It was an amazing experience to be that close to them, if only briefly, in the wild.
I read that the Sandhill Crane has one of the longest fossil records of any living bird. There is apparently debate over whether one 10 million year old fossil found in Nebraska is this species or a distant relative, but there is no argument apparently about a 2.5 million year old fossil which is still one and a half times older than the fossil record for most living birds. I read this here.