Living Bird Magazine
Sandhill CraneAntigone canadensis
- ORDER: Gruiformes
- FAMILY: Gruidae
Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America. They group together in great numbers, filling the air with distinctive rolling cries. Mates display to each other with exuberant dances that retain a gangly grace. Sandhill Crane populations are generally strong, but isolated populations in Mississippi and Cuba are endangered.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Sandhill Cranes are large birds that live in open habitats, so they’re fairly easy to spot if you go to the right places. In summer look for them in small bogs, marshes, and prairies across northern North America and the southeastern United States. In winter they form immense flocks in places like Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Their bugling calls are unique and can be heard from miles away—they can help alert you to this species’ presence, particularly as they pass overhead on migration.
- Grulla Canadiense (Spanish)
- Grue du Canada (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound whose unique tone is a product of anatomy: Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness.
- Sandhill Cranes are known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance.
- The elegance of cranes has inspired people in cultures all over the world—including the great scientist, conservationist, and nature writer Aldo Leopold, who wrote of their “nobility, won in the march of aeons.”
- Although some start breeding at two years of age, Sandhill Cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. They mate for life—which can mean two decades or more—and stay with their mates year-round. Juveniles stick close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching.
- The earliest Sandhill Crane fossil, estimated to be 2.5 million years old, was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida.
- Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and are even capable of swimming.
- The oldest Sandhill Crane on record was at least 36 years, 7 months old. Originally banded in Wyoming in 1973, it was found in New Mexico in 2010.