A Florida links would hardly be complete without a galumphing gator or two keeping golfers on their toes. But manicured fairways and interconnected streams are also attractive to other species, like the Florida sandhill crane – a stately bird that inhabits freshwater marshes, prairies, and pastures across the Sunshine State. The cranes, however, do not take too kindly to their reptilian neighbours, as golfer, Eric Drexler discovered recently while playing a round at a local course.


In a clip uploaded to Drexler's Facebook page, a side-stepping crane determinedly ushers a gator across a section of the golf course – the trundling reptile paying little heed to the bird's bravado. The crane's flared wings show a typical sandhill response to a potential terrestrial predator. The same tactic was used by a different sandhill crane on golf-course gator last year, as well as by a trio of cranes that managed to send a much-smaller threat running for cover. The outstretched-wing dance can also be accompanied by hissing and ultimately a kick at the antagonist, though this crane opted for a safer sideways shuffle.

According to Drexler, the sandhill was protecting a nearby chick – something that these birds are known to do with gusto. There are records of cranes using the same intimidating wingspread routine to drive off black bears that wander too close to a nest.

Alligators will sometimes prey on cranes, though adult birds are usually fleet and alert enough to avoid attack. When they aren't ambling around on the putting green, gators are usually prowling deeper waterways, while cranes typically forage in wet meadows and nest in shallow marshes. If water levels rise high enough, though, gators may gain access to crane nesting grounds, and they have been known to eat both fledglings and eggs. 

This gator, however, seemed disinterested in the crane's defensive dance – it's possible that the reptile had other matters to attend to. Alligators begin their courtship ritual in early April and mating kicks off in May when sexually mature animals are likely to be more active. Sightings of gators are already on the rise in Florida and Texas with reptiles turning up on residential porches, at busy intersections, and even at the occasional hotel.

Top header image: striderp64/Flickr