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Sandhill Crane

Grus canadensis

Sandhillcrane Gallery

About the Sandhill Crane

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Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae
Genus: Grus
Species: canadensis

Sandhill cranes mate for life and usually stay with their mates year-round. Mated crane pairs often engage in a behavior known as “unison calling." The cranes sing and call together while running and leaping in the air in a unified dance. Although these behaviors are usually exhibited during mating, they can be seen at any age and any season. These movements help young cranes develop, reduces aggression, and creates a stronger bond between a pair of cranes.

Sandhill Crane Facts

Appearance:

The plumage of sandhill cranes varies from near white to dark gray. Their foreheads and crowns are covered with reddish skin, and their faces, chins and throats are white to pale gray. Adults have a white cheek patch with black legs and toes. Juveniles are gray and reddish-brown, without the white cheek patch or red crown. Their tail is covered by a "bustle" of inner wing feathers.

Size:

  • Weight: Average 6 to 7 pounds (males are typically larger)
  • Height: 4 to 5 feet
  • Wingspan: 5 to 6 feet

Diet:

A wide variety of plant roots, grains, small mammals, small reptiles, insects and worms. They use their slender beaks to probe for food under the water and in the mud. Sandhill cranes don't like to hunt in open water or bend their necks down the way herons do.

Reproduction:

Sandhill cranes mate for life and usually stay with their mates year-round. They create their nests on the ground from nearby pieces of twigs, branches and leaves. Most nests are made in wet areas like marshes and swamps, but sometimes birds will nest in drier areas. Females typically lay two eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. Typically only one nestling survives to fledge.

Behavior:

Sandhill crane flocks can consist of 10,000 birds. Mated crane pairs often engage in a behavior known as “unison calling." The cranes sing and call together while running and leaping in the air in a unified dance. Although these behaviors are usually exhibited during mating, they can be seen at any age and any season. These movements help young cranes develop, reduces aggression, and creates a stronger bond between a pair of cranes.

Habitat/Range:

Most sandhill cranes live in freshwater wetlands, with some preferring open grasslands and pine savannas. Sandhill cranes are the most abundant cranes in the world and can be found throughout North America, from Cuba in the Caribbean all the way North through most of Canada, to Alaska, and even Siberia.

Some subspecies migrate every winter from the northern part of their range in Alaska and Canada, thousands of miles south to warm southern states like Florida, Texas, and as far as Mexico. One subspecies does not migrate, instead living year round in Florida, Mississippi and Cuba.

Median Life Expectancy:

About 20 years.