Crane Signal Dictionary: Part 1. Social body language
See also Part 2: Dance steps and Part 3: Attack & defense
Cranes communicate by sounds and visual displays. Lacking hands, they "gesture" with whole-body postures and movements - body language that expresses emotion, can convey intent, and promotes social networking. This webpage includes displays and ritualized behaviors that cranes use to communicate with each other.
The postures and motor behaviors are like words in crane body lanuage. They can be appropriated in Dancing (Part 2) and can transition into Attack-defense (Part 3).
An excellent Field Guide to Crane Behavior can be downloaded as a pdf from the International Crane Foundation. For our dictionary of crane body language, we are especially indebted to the "Sociogram" of Ellis and colleagues and also to others referenced below.
Very nice audio files of the Sandhill Crane Contact Call (Purr), Unison Call, and Guard Call, provided by the International Crane Foundation, can be accessed from the Baker Sanctuary Webpage.
Waterford Press has recently published our Sandhill Crane Display Dictionary 9.
We welcome emails that suggest improvements to this dictionary.
Head-rub, preening and combing
In preening, the chin, crown and side of head are rubbed on back or wings. For combing, individual feathers are isolated and meticulously cleaned from base to tip. Low-arousal, socially contagious behaviors.
Preening may be for hygiene or indicate ambivalence.
After the head and bill are wiped across opening of the uropygial gland (preen gland) at the base of the tail, the oily secretions are distributed on the feathers of the back, the wing, the breast, and other regions. The secretions could lubricate and clean the feathers, repell parasites, and might contain pheromones.
Birds may perform this display for hours.
Masatomi and Kitagawa5 named the behavior "Oiling"and Johngard3 termed it "Back-slicking".
1. Caro SP, Balthazart J 2010. Pheromones in birds: myth or reality? J Comp Physiol A 196:751-796.
2. Ellis DH, Swengel SR, Archibald GE, Kepler CB 1998. A sociogram for cranes of the world. Behavioral Processes 43:125-151.
3. Johnsgard P 1983. Cranes of the World. 2. Individualistic and social behavior. Papers in Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, pp. 11-24.
4. Masatomi H 1983. Some observations on mating behaviour of several cranes in captivity. J. Ethol. 1:62-69.
5. Masatomi H, Kitagawa T 1975. Bionomics and sociology of the Japanese Crane, Grus japoniensis, II. Ethogram. Jour. Fac. Sci. Hohhaido Univ. Ser. VI, Zool. 19:834-878.
6. Nesbitt SA, Archibald GW 1981. The agonistic repertoire of sandhill cranes. Wilson Bulletin 93:99-103.
7. Tacha T 1988. Social organization of the cranes from midcontinetal North America. Wildl. Monogr. 99:1-37.
8. Voss KH 1977. Agonistic behavior of the Greater Sandhill Crane. Eastern Greater Sandhill Crane Symposium, pp. 63-85.
9. Yuncker-Happ C, Happ GM 2011. Sandhill Crane Display Dictionary. Waterford Press. [http://www.waterfordpress.com]