Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis
Sandhill Cranes are rare to very uncommon in Duval County, with most observations occurring in the western part of the county. You can see them with some degree of effort, but it may take several tries and may require checking various locations.
Although they have only shown up on the Christmas Bird Count twice (a count of five in 1997 and two in 2014), they have been reported almost annually for the last couple of decades along the I-10 corridor between Marietta and Baldwin. They were also often seen at the old Mecklenburg Dairy Farm off Beaver Street.
Since 2011, they can be found in small numbers around the New World Avenue and Cecil Commerce Center area, but observations are usually limited to a few individuals. In 2013, the county’s first verified breeding record was established in this general area, and two pair have fledged colts successfully each year since.
Look for them foraging in the wet field at the corner of New World Avenue and Waterworks Street, or on the lawn behind the fenced area directly in front of the Bridgestone building on New World Avenue.
In February 2016, I observed one fly over J. Turner Butler Boulevard at the San Pablo Road exit. The bird was flying low from the direct of Dee Dot Ranch to the south and appeared to be heading for a landing on the wooded portion of Mayo Clinic’s southern border. Dee Dot Ranch is largely undeveloped and has historically hosted wading bird rookeries; it would not be unreasonable to assume this Crane was part of a breeding pair somewhere in Dee Dot’s wooded swamp.
On 4 May 2017, Becky Loyacano recorded the county’s second breeding pair at Baymeadows Regional Park in Jacksonville’s southside, which is actually darn close to the western edge of Dee Dot Ranch, thus supporting my theory of cranes nesting throughout that heavily wooded property.