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Species Guide
A photo of a Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)
Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Antigone canadensis

The Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) is a majestic bird, standing tall with a stature that commands attention. These large cranes are predominantly grey, with a striking red forehead, white cheeks, and a long, dark, pointed bill. During the breeding season, their plumage often appears worn and stained, taking on an ochre hue, especially in migratory populations. The average weight of males is around 4.57 kg, while females average 4.02 kg. Their impressive wingspan can reach up to 2 meters, facilitating their soaring flight.

Identification Tips

In identifying the Sandhill Crane, look for the red patch on the forehead, white cheeks, and the long, dark bill. In flight, their long legs extend well beyond the tail, and their neck is kept straight. Juveniles can be distinguished by their reddish-brown upperparts and grey underparts. The sexes are similar in appearance, but size can vary among subspecies.


Sandhill Cranes are often found at the edges of water bodies and are known to frequent wetlands, open prairies, and freshwater environments, particularly in Central Florida and the Platte River on the edge of Nebraska's Sandhills.


This species ranges from North America to extreme northeastern Siberia. The central Platte River valley in Nebraska is a crucial stopover for the migratory great sandhill crane, with up to 450,000 birds passing through annually.


Sandhill Cranes are social birds, typically living in pairs or family groups. During migration and winter, they form large flocks that can number in the thousands. They are skilled soaring birds, using thermals to stay aloft for hours with minimal energy expenditure.

Song & Calls

The call of the Sandhill Crane is a loud, trumpeting sound that carries over long distances. Mated pairs perform a unique "unison calling," a synchronized and complex duet that strengthens their bond.


Breeding pairs build nests using plant material, and females lay one to three eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 30 days. Chicks are precocial and leave the nest within a day of hatching, reaching independence at 9 to 10 months old.

Similar Species

The Sandhill Crane can be confused with other crane species, but its size, plumage, and distinctive call help differentiate it.

Diet and Feeding

Primarily herbivorous, Sandhill Cranes feed on seeds, berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians. They are also known to consume cultivated crops like corn and wheat.

Conservation status

The Sandhill Crane is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, but some subspecies, particularly those in the southernmost range, are rare and face threats from habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts include habitat management and reintroduction programs.

Sandhill Crane Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Sandhill Crane Fun Facts

Did you know?
The earliest known Sandhill Cranes were from fossils estimated to be 2.5 million years old.
Did you know?
Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and can even swim.

Sandhill Cranes on Birda


More Cranes

A photo of a Sarus Crane (Antigone antigone)

Sarus Crane

Antigone antigone
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