Understanding the structure below the feathers is an important part of being able to see and draw Sandhill Cranes. Train your mind to visualize what is going on below the surface, to see into the bird. Click on the first image to start a step-by-step slideshow.
The crane’s body is a solid oval block. The long, flexible, S-shaped neck articulates from the top and front of the body. The neck has smoother curves than an egret or a heron and often has an L-shaped kink. The neck and the hip are the two critical points of articulation. The body can tip up and down from the hip, changing the posture. Note how the leg appears to emerge closer to the neck as the bird tips forward. The folded wing covers the side of the body in a broad Z. The wing attaches to the shoulder near the articulation point of the neck. The leg attaches far back on the body. The femur is short, tibia long, and the tarsus mid-length. The hip and knee are covered by the wing and feathers of the body. Visualize this bone structure under the feathers. Note that the Femur and much of the tibia is hidden under the feathers. That “backwards facing knee” is actually a heel! The front of the wing tucks under a flap of breast feathers while the scapular feathers cover the top edge. The primary feathers are hidden by the folded wing. The bustle of feathers at the back connect to the base of the wing (not tail). Note that they often have two sections, a broad rear bustle and a forward pile of more neatly aligned row at the back of the wing. A relevant video