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Wildlife official tries to trap bird that damaged windows

The male sandhill crane is a no-show when a biologist waits for it to come attack its reflection in the windows of a Gospel Island home.

By ALEX LEARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2001


INVERNESS -- Apparently threatened by its own reflection, a sandhill crane has been attacking the windows of a home on Gospel Island, causing enough damage that wildlife officials attempted to trap the bird this week.

"The male crane is seeing his reflection and is believing it is another male crane," said Tim Breen, a biologist for the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The crane is probably trying to stake its claim to the territory and its mate, Breen said.

Window screens at the home owned by Tim Ott, 2 North Shadowwood Drive, have sustained extensive damage, Breen said. Ott declined to comment.

The repeated nuisance was first reported in October, and Breen traveled to the neighborhood on Thursday intending to trap the birds.

He arrived at 7 a.m., and the cranes had not shown up more than three hours later. Breen will return again.

"We don't typically try to trap a bird," he said, "but in this case, it's necessary. These birds seem like they have set up a territory, and they are not going away."

If trapped, the birds will be branded and fitted with radio transmitters. Breen hopes the experience of holding them for a half hour or so will make the birds think twice about settling in the neighborhood.

Relocating them would likely not work: The sandhills have a keen sense of direction and would return.

Sandhill cranes may be attracted to the area because it is an easy food source. Breen said it is not a good idea to feed the birds because they lose fear of humans.

Sandhills are the most abundant of the crane species, numbering more than 650,000. But the Florida subspecies, which is not migratory, is threatened. Between 4,000 and 6,000 exist, according to the International Crane Foundation.

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