Sandhill CraneGrus canadensis

summer adult
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Arthur Morris/VIREO
winter adult
Brian E. Small/VIREO
winter adults
Owen Deutsch/VIREO
winter adults
Arthur Morris/VIREO
summer adult male and female
Arthur Morris/VIREO
winter adults
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane



34-48" (86-122 cm). W. 6' 8" (2 m). Very tall, with long neck and legs. Largely gray, with red forehead; immature browner, no red on head. Plumage often appears rusty because of iron stains from water of tundra ponds.


A loud rattling kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.


unison calls of pair
flock flying overhead
rattle calls
antiphonal flight calls of pair


Large freshwater marshes, prairie ponds, and marshy tundra; also on prairies and grainfields during migration and in winter.


Breeds from Siberia and Alaska east across Arctic Canada to Hudson Bay and south to western Ontario, with isolated populations in Rocky Mountains, northern prairies, and Great Lakes region, and in Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. Winters in California's Central Valley, and across southern states from Arizona to Florida. Also in Cuba.


These cranes migrate in great flocks and assemble in vast numbers at places like the Platte River in Nebraska. Here it is possible to see what must have been a common sight when the species bred over most of the interior United States. The mating dance of the Sandhill Crane is spectacular. Facing each other, members of a pair leap into the air with wings extended and feet thrown forward. Then they bow to each other and repeat the performance, uttering loud croaking calls. Courting birds also run about with their wings outstretched and toss tufts of grass in the air.


2 buff eggs, spotted with brown, in a large mound of grass and aquatic plants in an undisturbed marsh.

Similar Species


Great Blue Heron

39-52" (99-132 cm). W. 5'10" (1.8 m). A common large, mainly grayish heron with a pale or yellowish bill.


Whooping Crane

45-50" (1.1-1.3 m). W. 7' 6" (2.3 m). A very large crane, pure white with black wing tips, red on forehead and cheeks. Young birds similar, but strongly tinged with brown.


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