Sandhill Crane Identification

The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    Sandhill Cranes are very large, tall birds with a long neck, long legs, and very broad wings. The bulky body tapers into a slender neck; the short tail is covered by drooping feathers that form a “bustle.” The head is small and the bill is straight and longer than the head.

    Relative Size

    About the same size, but considerably bulkier, than a Great Blue Heron. Smaller than a Whooping Crane.

    Relative Sizegoose or largergoose-sized or larger
    Measurements
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 47.2 in (120 cm)
      • Weight: 119.9-172.8 oz (3400-4900 g)
      • Wingspan: 78.7 in (200 cm)

Regional Differences

Sandhill Cranes are similar in plumage across their range, but they vary in size. “Lesser” Sandhill Cranes breed in the Arctic and are the smallest; the largest form (“Greater” Sandhill Crane) breeds in the northern U.S. The nonmigratory “Florida” Sandhill Crane and a form that breeds in central Canada are intermediate in size.