The best part of doing this story was standing by the Rio Grande at dusk with Chris Witt, watching the sandhill cranes fly in to roost. The birds were great, but the really extraordinary part was watching Chris watch them – eyes flitting, counting, listening and hearing.
As they flew by, they announced their presence with the characteristic honking that has become the serenade of winter on New Mexico’s middle Rio Grande, and Witt offered a play-by-play of his rising count. That one was a lesser sandhill crane, smaller than the others with a peg-like beak. Those others the larger greaters, and listen to that high-pitched whistle heard amid the deep honking coming from the Y-shaped formation, the distinctive cry of a juvenile keeping up with mom and dad.
There’s also some stuff about birds being deceptive to get mates, which is maybe a sex angle so you should click?