Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane Adult and Juvenile
Sandhill Crane Adults and Juveniles
Sandhill cranes flying
Sandhill Cranes Flying

Adult Sandhill Cranes are tall, heavy-bodied birds with gray bodies, chins and backs of their neck. They have very distinctive bright-red crowns and white cheeks and necks. They have long black bills (longer than their heads) and long, black legs. They have heavy-looking, droopy feathers at the back.

Breeding adults may have more rusty or tan coloring on their gray bodies. Juveniles, on the other hand, are rusty brown without any white cheeks or red crowns. 

There are five subspecies of the Sandhill Crane in North America, but there is hardly any difference among the various subspecies. Only Lesser Sandhill Cranes are considerably smaller in size compared to the rest of their group. 

  • Antigone canadensis
  • Length: 34 – 48 in (86 – 122 cm)
  • Weight: 132.27 oz (3749 g)
  • Wingspan: 73 – 90 in (185 – 229 cm)


Sandhill Cranes breed in Alaska, Canada, and northern and central US states before migrating to southern US states for winter.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Sandhill Cranes during winter in shallow lakes, irrigated croplands, pastures, and grasslands. From spring to summer, they move to and stay in their breeding grounds in open wetland habitats with shrubs or trees.

Nesting ground is mostly marshes, bogs, wet meadows, prairies, and moist habitats with standing water. Nonbreeders stay on open, grassy sites. 

Sandhill Cranes are opportunistic feeders and will go where food is abundant. They are omnivores and feed on both land and water. When on land, they will eat seeds, grains, berries, and tubers. When on water, they will pluck out plants from the water, or probe through mud and vegetation for amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals with their long bills. 

Sandhill Crane Calls:

Sandhill Cranes find their mates by performing unison calling (loudest and most noticeable calls) and through dancing rituals. They mate when they reach their breeding grounds. 


Nests of Sandhill Cranes are built together by the parents on marshes or bogs. Nests are usually on the ground made out of dead sticks, moss, reeds, and grass. The female lays one to three eggs which they both incubate for about a month. 

Fun Facts:

Sandhill Cranes are monogamous and mate for life. They will only find a new mate when their partner dies.