Sandhill Crane

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Sandhill Crane
Conservation status: Secure
Missing image
Sandhill Crane

Scientific classification
Species:G. canadensis
Binomial name
Grus canadensis
Linnaeus, 1758
An adult Sandhill Crane
An adult Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis, is a large crane.

Adults are grey; they have a red crown, white cheeks and a long dark pointed bill. They have long dark legs which trail behind in flight and a long neck that is kept straight in flight. Immature birds do not have a red crown; they have reddish brown upperparts and grey underparts.

Their breeding habitat is marshes and bogs in central and northern Canada, Alaska, part of the midwestern and southeastern United States and Siberia. They nest in marsh vegetation or on the ground close to water. The female lays 2 eggs on a mound of vegetation. Both parents feed the young who are soon able to feed themselves. The young birds migrate south with their parents.

Birds on the Gulf of Mexico are permanent residents. Others migrate to the southwestern United States south to Mexico. The Platte River in the American midwest is an important stopover for up to 450,000 of these birds during migration. This crane is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

These birds forage while walking in shallow water or in fields, sometimes probing with their bills. They are omnivorous, eating insects, aquatic plants and animals, rodents, seeds and berries. Outside of the nesting season, they forage in large flocks, often in cultivated areas.

This crane frequently gives a loud trumpeting call that suggests a French-style "r" rolled in the throat. Sandhill Cranes in flight can be differentiated from herons in that they fly with their necks extended and by their nearly constant calls.

Sandhill Cranes have been used as foster parents for Whooping Crane eggs and young in reintroduction schemes for that species, a project which failed as these foster-raised Whooping Cranes did not recognise other Whooping Cranes as their conspecifics—attempting instead, unsuccessfully, to pair with Sandhills.

Missing image
sandhill cranes, near Jackson, Michigan
Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache, New Mexico
Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache, New Mexico


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