The Sandhill Cranes are Back in Albuquerque!

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Sandhill cranes, Albuquerque, NM photo Denise Ames

November is always a special month for me—flocks of Sandhill Cranes winter in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque warmly welcomes the migrating visitors by providing open space fields of grains specially planted for them to feast upon during their wintery stay.

They have a deep-throated honk that distinguishes them from Canadian geese that also winter with them. As they fly over the turquoise-blue skies of Albuquerque, honking for their family to follow, they always trigger me to turn my gaze upward to contemplate upon their beauty and gracefulness in flight.

photo Denise Ames

They teeter around on spindly legs, but miraculously can grow up to four feet tall. With their long necks, and prominent beaks, they look like a pre-historic bird species. And indeed, they might be one of the oldest birds still alive. In Nebraska, where they also winter, a crane fossil estimated to be about 10 million years old was found to have the identical structure as the modern Sandhill crane. Presently, the Sandhill cranes visiting Albuquerque are not on the endangered list.

Although we just call them “the cranes,” their scientific name is Grus canadensis. They live to about 20 years old and mated pairs stay together for the year. They will start having young between two and seven years old. Sporting light gray feathers, they have a distinctive red patch around their eyes and above their beak.

Their breeding grounds are in the higher latitudes—Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and northern US—but they seem to like Albuquerque and the Middle Rio Grande Valley, traveling thousands of miles from as far away as the Arctic Circle to reach our scenic environs. Over 18,000 cranes fly in to Albuquerque like clockwork every year during the fall and winter months. By March they have all departed.

photo Denise Ames

They are easily adaptable to a variety of habitats including grasslands, meadows, and wetlands. Their social behavior includes at least ten different types of calls, various threatening postures, and elaborate dances for everything from joy to courtship.

Seeing the sandhill cranes floods me with a feeling that we have a deep connection with wild species that share the planet with us. We usually ignore this feeling or keep it buried in our unconsciousness. But when the sandhill cranes float through the air or peck for food amidst the grain fields, I am grateful to recognize and appreciate this connection. I hope this connection with wild species will be able to continue for following generations.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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