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:
For yearlings and second-year cranes on staging areas and in summer gangs of teen-agers, the act of dancing refines postures, steps, sequences, and routines but even more important, dancers size-up one another by challenging and by flirting.
Mated pairs of cranes dance year-round on winter roosting grounds, migratory staging areas, and summer nesting territories. Dancing is a postural conversation that synchronizes emotions and likely promotes the hormonal changes that hasten reproductive maturation.
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