Sandhill Crane

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name

Grus canadensis

Species Survival Plan

No

Habitat

Wetlands

Predators

Coyote, bobcat, domestic dog and eagle

Food

Plant matter, insects, aquatic invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and fish

Originally Native To

Northeastern Siberia, Alaska and Canada

Height

48 inches

Weight

10 - 15 lb.

Characteristics

Tall gray crane with red crown patch, reddish brown eyes and white cheek patches; wingspan of 60 - 72 inches

Gestation Period

31 days

Offspring

2 eggs

Birth Season

February to June

Lifespan

Wild 18 - 24 years
Captivity 40 years

Social Behavior

Single male harems slightly smaller than those of the plains zebra. Rarely do small herds combine to form large aggregations, as opposed to the plains zebra. They are migratory

iucn_badge_least_concern

About Sandhill Crane

Sandhill cranes have the longest migratory route of any crane at about 14,000 miles per roundtrip. They migrate along the Central Flyway from their wintering areas in Texas and Mexico to their breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

Up to 550,000 cranes stage at Nebraska’s Platte River each year in March on their way north. The submerged sandbars of the river provide roosting sites for the cranes as they pause here to feed on waste corn in the surrounding fields and to wait for favorable weather before continuing migration.

This staging area allows the cranes to build up fat deposits for their strenuous trip north. A single crane may gain as much as a pound during its few weeks on the Platte. The importance of the Platte River and the surrounding agricultural lands are important to the cranes, since those arriving at their nesting grounds in good shape are better prepared to produce young.

The crane holds its neck out straight in flight, as opposed to tucked. Flocks are arranged in a loose “V” formation during migration. Constant calling between individuals can be heard up to one half-mile away and is audible before the formation is visible. The cranes also stop on the Platte in the fall on their way south, but only for a day or so and in smaller numbers.

Sandhill cranes are the most numerous of all the cranes. Their greatest threat as a species is the loss of migratory habitat, especially on the Platte River.

Water diversions for irrigation and urban water use have drained the Platte of nearly 70 percent of its water supply, which affects the river’s ability to maintain sandbars used by cranes for roosting. Loss of habitat also concentrates migratory waterfowl, including sandhills and whooping cranes, into ever-smaller areas of suitable environment, raising the risk of catastrophic disease outbreaks.

Hunting may affect some populations, such as the Rocky Mountain flock. Twelve western states, two Canadian provinces, nine Mexican states and portions of Russia permit hunting for sandhill cranes. This population is stable or may even be slowly increasing.

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As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.