Sandhill Crane - Grus canadensis

Length 2.8-4.0 ft (86.4-121.9 cm)
Wingspan 5.2-6.9 ft (160.0-210.0 cm)
Weight M: 10.1 lb (4581.3 g), F: 8.9 lb (4037.0 g)
Clutch Size 2
Chicks at birth Precocial
IUCN Conservation Status Least Concern
Continents:NA, AS

Sandhill Cranes have the largest population of all the cranes. There are six sub-species of Sandhill Cranes. The different sub-species vary quite a bit in size and weight with the larger sub-species breeding farther south. They are mostly found in North America and northeastern Siberia.

The sexes are similar but the male is slightly larger. The body is various shades of gray (mostly light gray). The forehead and crown are red and the bill is long and dark colored. The iris is reddish-orange, the legs and feet are gray. Juveniles are similar but have both reddish brown and gray feathers. Adults will sometimes have feathers that look brown but this is due to mud staining the feathers.

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Diet: Diet includes vegetation (tubers, grain seeds), insects, earthworms, snails, rodents and agricultural crops.

Courtship: Cranes have a display that involves dancing, bowing, running, jumping and stick tossing. This display is believed to be part of the courtship ritual and may also reinforce the pair bond. Younger birds also 'dance' and the reasons for this may be to help with motor development and to relieve aggression and tension. Females also initiate unison calling with her mate. They both stand in an upright position with their heads thrown back and their beaks skyward. The female utters two calls for each male call.

Nesting: Nests are usually low mounds made of nearby plant material. Both parents incubate the eggs and the male also defends the nest against danger.

Habitat and Range: Found mainly in open wetlands, shallow marshes and wet meadows. During migration cultivated areas near open marshes is very important. The Platte River in Nebraska is known as a stop-over point for tens of thousands of migrating cranes in spring.

Vocalization: Makes loud low-pitched rattling sounds with multiple variations.

Plumage/Molt: No alternate plumage.

Migration: Of the six subspecies of Sandhill Cranes, three are migratory (Greater, Lesser and Canadian). The other three subspecies (Mississippi, Cuban, and Florida) are found in Mississippi, Cuba and Florida. For the migratory species, the breeding grounds are mostly in Canada, Alaska and northeastern Siberia with scattered areas in the northern U.S. They migrate south to southern U.S. and northern Mexico. Large wintering concentrations are found in southern U.S. and northern Mexico.

Tongue/feet: Grey legs and feet.


  • Johnsgard, Paul, Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World,University of Nebraska-Lincoln Press, 1978
  • The Free Encyclopedia, Accessed January, 20144
  • International Crane Foundation, Accessed January, 2014

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