By Blair Castro
“They must be soul mates,” I explained to my boyfriend as we watched two tall, gorgeous grey-and-brown feathered cranes stroll across Alafaya Trail at their own leisurely pace. The fleck of red on their heads shone particularly bright in the early morning sun. Traffic was backed up a bit, but there was no honking. There would be no rushing these majestic birds to get to their destination. We would wait for them. Everyone waits for them.
I had often wondered about them. Why were they always in pairs or “families?” Why do they seem to love East Orlando so much? What is it about these creatures that command the respect and patience of our residents? Admittedly, we zoom back and forth to our destinations, becoming increasingly agitated with nearby construction, traffic, or one the many four-way stops in Avalon Park. Yet when these birds appear, we all seem to slow down a bit. The Florida Sandhill Crane, as I would later find out they were called, is a simple reminder of beauty, peace, family, and cooperation.
As it turns out, your typical Florida Sandhill Crane is a regular Phil Mickelson, and is always up for a relaxing round of golf. These birds thrive in prairies, forests, and wetlands. Avalon Park’s surrounding marshy woods provide them with the perfect habitat, and the golf courses of Stoneybrook East and Eastwood contain the rolling hills that they love to peruse for a delicious vegetation or invertebrate meal. I often see pairs of Sandhill Cranes when I stop in to grab groceries at Walmart, as I get gas at 7/11, and whenever I drive around the “roundabout” downtown. Sometimes, I will even recognize previously identified birds.
Before I even researched these creatures, I could already tell you that these birds mate for life. The way that they are always so sweetly paired up, walking casually and enjoying life together, really says it all. They are indeed usually a monogamous species. Both the males and females will take turns incubating their egg (or in rare cases, eggs) and the young crane will stay with its parents until it is completely grown. Eventually, as the young cranes turn into adults, they will find their own mate. One time, I watched as four cranes walked Stoneybrook together, and I wondered if this was a now-adult crane bringing home his partner to meet his parents. The cohesiveness of their familial units would melt even the coldest of hearts.
We could learn a thing or two from the Florida Sandhill Crane. Work together. Go on walks. Appreciate family. Soak in the sun. Love nature. Enjoy your community. It is for these reasons that I will always slow down when I see these birds. They bring me a great sense of joy and peace. I am proud to share East Orlando with my favorite neighbor, the Florida Sandhill Crane.
Blair V. Castro, J.D. is a resident of Stoneybrook East, an Entertainment Business Master’s candidate at Fullsail University, and graduate of East Orlando’s own Barry University School of Law. She is also the mother of a wonderful 6 year-old boy named Desmond, and is currently scheduled to sit for the July Florida Bar Exam.