Sandhill Crane Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is a large North American bird that is often found in the Platte River. The crane also typically occurs on the edge of American Plains as well as on the extreme northeastern Siberia. They are migratory birds. Each year 450,000 sandhill cranes migrate.

Sandhill Crane Facts

Anatomy

  • The adult sandhill crane has dark gray plumage.
  • Adult males average 4.57 kg (10.1 lb) in weight whereas the females weigh up to 4.02 kg (8.9 lb).
  • They have a large wingspan measuring 1.65 to 2.29 m (5 ft 5 in to 7 ft 6 in).
  • It is typically recognized by the red forehead and long pointed bill. The reddish-brown upperparts give it an additional new look. The reddish color fades away as the young grows to an adult. Both males and females look alike.
  • Sandhill cranes average 80 to 122 cm (2 ft 7 in to 4 ft 0 in) in height.
  • They have a 10–26.4 cm (3.9–10.4 in) long tail with the wing chords measuring about 41.8–60 cm (16.5–23.6 in).
  • Cranes are noisy birds and their sounds are heard from far off.
  • During winter, sandhill cranes travel in flocks of 10,000 birds. They are thought to travel hundred miles south of New Mexico.

Distribution & Habitat 

  • Sandhill cranes fly all over the North America as well as British Columbia, Quebec to northern Alaska. Outside winter, some of the populations are also found in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Northwest United States.
  • During winter season, cranes breed in Mexico, California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas.
  • Sandhill cranes make habitats in savanna, wetlands, swales, marshes, bogs and rarely on dry land.
sandhill crane facts
Sandhill Crane ©www.mprnews.org

Behavior

  • Sandhill cranes are highly social birds and they live in large family groups.
  • During winter times, cranes migrate and roost together in large numbers and they are not related to each other.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Like most other birds, sandhill cranes are herbivores but they mainly feed on seeds and other foods that are in shallow wetlands. The sandhill crane’s diet consists of cultivated foods such as corn, sorghum, cottonseed, and wheat.
  • Sandhill cranes also consume insects, amphibians, small mammals, berries, reptiles, and snails.

Reproductive Biology

  • A female lays eggs in December to August for non-migratory cranes. While migratory birds lay eggs in April or May.
  • Females lay 1 – 3 dull brown eggs with few markings on it.
  • Both parents incubate the eggs for about 29 – 32 days .
  • Young will become independent after 9 – 10 months. The chicks stick to the nest for about 30 – 60 days. After 50 – 90 days chicks fledge out.
  • Sandhill cranes form breeding pairs between 2 – 7 years age.

Predators

Mammals:

  • Raccoons
  • Cougars
  • Wolves
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcats
  • Lynx
  • American Mink

Birds:

  • Ravens
  • Gulls
  • Crows
  • Northern Harriers
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Great Horned Owls

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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