Alaska Sandhill Crane 2019


DANCE DISPLAYS


Dancing is an iconic expression of the emotional state of cranes. When paired cranes dance, they announce and reciprocate emotions and build stronger inter-bird bonding. Dancing fosters a crane version of empathy and raises the emotional level. When crane p[airs become highly aroused by dancing, they may use high arousal attack displays (like Bow and Jump-rake) as dance displays.

Dancing plays different roles as cranes mature:

Although the basic motor patterns of dance displays are genetic, individual cranes have their own styles and favored repertoires. Since parents teach colts to dance in the first summer, dance repertoires reflect both nature and nurture. We believe that displays depicted on this webpage are representative of the basic repertoire for Alaska Sandhill Cranes

Ground-stab

Display: The crane stabs very quickly at the ground and then stands briefly with wings spread. The next display is often a Wing-spread or a Jump.

Function: Look at me and lets's dance! In a flock of cranes, this display often evokes a responding Jump or Wing-spread-hold.

Ground-stab

Jump-rake

Display: Crane leaps into the air and kicks out toward dance partner. The left bird (female) is in a wing-spread-forwad-tilt.

Function: High arousal dance. When Jump-rake is used as an Attack Display, feet strike the opponent.


Jump-rake

Wing-spread-forward-bow

Display: Body axis tilted forward, neck coiled tightly back, and wings spread with tips curved down. Millie (left) and Roy (right).


Function: Moderate to high arousal display in pair and family dance.


Wing-spread-forward-bow

Object-toss

Display: While dancing, a crane may seize a feather, fling it (left), and then stand and watch it float to the ground.

A grass stem, a cattail or a stick can likewise be tossed.

Function: Solo or pair dance.

Object-toss

Stab-grad-wave

Display: While dancing, crane stabs at the ground, grabs and pulls up a bit of plant material, and jumps at an extreme backward angle while waving the vegetation.

Function: At start of a dance sequence, often after a Ground-stab.

Stab-grad-wave

Arch

Display: Nech arched up and bill pointed vertically. Wings are lifted and spread.

Very rare display; see Ice dancing 2009 for context of this Arch display.

Function: Very high arousal dancing.

Arch

Gape & gape-sweep

Display: Crane spreads wings, partially crouches, holds head forward and down with bill open. Head is swept left and right in Gape-sweep. .

Function: Solo or dancing with partner. Often mixed with Wing-spread-hold or Tuck-bob during a dance.

Gape & Gape-sweep

Curtsey

Display: Crane squats low with neck coiled back, wings held close to body and primary feathers spread. In pair dancing, usually the female. One of the first dance displays of month-old colts.

Function: Response to Jump or Gape of partner.

Curtsey

Tuck-Bob

Display:With neck tightly coiled and bill held horizontal, the crane bobs its body up and down. Wings are partly spread and feathers are sleeked.

Function: Dance.This is a dynamic display; a leap often follows.

Nest-building

Bow

Display: Crane lowers its head, points bill sharply down and arches the neck. Wings can be held close or spread.

Function: High arousal dancing, for example after mating.

Bow

Straight-leg highstep

Display: Crane faces forward, body angled slightly up and head high, with wings held wide and cupped. The crane high-steps, like a soldier in a ceremonial march, holding out each leg straight.

Function: Dance.

Straight-leg- highstep

Run-flap

Display: The crane flaps its wings and sprints forward

Function: Dance, perhaps as an expression of joy.

Also used in threat.

Run-flap

Tour-jeté (Jump-Turn)

Display: Crane makes three jumps to complete one rotation. These photos show a clockwise rotation.

Function: Dance, either solo or with partner.

Tourjete

Minuet

Display: A mated pair with wings extended gracefully rotates. Other displays may be interspersed like Tuck-bob, Jump-rake, and Single-wing-spin during the circling

Function: Pair dance or family dance

Minuet

Wing-spread-hold

Display: Crane stands or walks with head pointing forward and with wings held out and often fanned briefly.

In the far right picture below, an adult molting primary feathers is dancing with a 3-week-old-colt.

Function: At start of a dance sequence, often after a Ground-stab.

Wing-spread-hold

Jump

Display: Crane jumps straight up, facing partner or solo dance. Wings may be spread wide, cupped, or held back. Neck can be upright or pecking down. Often after Ground-stab.

Function: May reflect high-spiritedness or even play.

Jump

Run-flap-glide

Display: In the midst of pair dancing, female retreats, turns to face her mate, and runs flapping, jumping, and gliding to land facing the male. Elapsed time <1 sec.

Function: Pair dance. This high arousal female display is rare.

Run-flap-glide

Single-wing-spin

Display: Crane extends its outside wing and pulls the inner one against its body, like a spinning figure skater.

Function: Dance. Facilitates rapid spinning.

Single-wing-spin

Salute

Display: The male crane salutes, standing at attention for ~2 seconds while the female runs left-to-right in an arc and turns toward him to display.

Function: Pair dance or family dance

Salute

About Us


We live on 40 acres of permafrost near Fairbanks, Alaska.

For 24 years, Christy Yuncker Happ has faithfully recorded the passing of the seasons in her written journals, still images, and videos.

George Happ is responsible for maintaining this website and the Alaska Sandhill Crane Blog.


Sandhill Crane Display Dictionary

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Christy Yuncker Happ
1695 Snowhook Trail
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709
P: (907) 388-1554
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