|Conservation status||Within the last few decades, Sandhill Cranes have greatly expanded their nesting range and numbers in the upper Midwest, a population that migrates southeastward toward Florida for the winter. Most populations now stable or increasing, but still vulnerable to loss of habitat. Degradation of habitat at major stopover points for migrants could have serious impact on species. Localized races in Mississippi and Cuba are endangered.|
|Habitat||Prairies, fields, marshes, tundra. Habitat varies with region, but usually nests around marshes or bogs, either in open grassland or surrounded by forest. Northernmost birds nest on marshy tundra. In migration and winter, often around open prairie, agricultural fields, river valleys.|
See family introduction. Except in breeding season, forages in flocks.
Usually 2, sometimes 1, rarely 3. Variably pale olive to buff, marked with brown or gray. Incubation is by both sexes, 29-32 days. Female does more of incubating (typically all night, part of day). Young: Leave the nest within a day after hatching, follow parents in marsh. Both parents feed young at first, but young gradually learn to feed themselves. Age at first flight about 65-75 days. Young remain with parents for 9-10 months, accompanying them in migration.
Leave the nest within a day after hatching, follow parents in marsh. Both parents feed young at first, but young gradually learn to feed themselves. Age at first flight about 65-75 days. Young remain with parents for 9-10 months, accompanying them in migration.
Omnivorous. Diet varies widely with location and season. Major food items include insects, roots of aquatic plants; also eat rodents, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, berries, seeds. May eat large quantities of cultivated grains when available.
Courtship includes elaborate "dance," with birds spreading wings, leaping in air while calling. Nest site is among marsh vegetation in shallow water (sometimes up to 3' deep), sometimes on dry ground close to water. Nest (built by both sexes) is mound of plant material pulled up from around site; nest may be built up from bottom or may be floating, anchored to standing plants.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Sandhill Cranes nesting in north migrate long distances (some cross the Bering Straits every spring and fall, en route to and from nesting grounds in Siberia). Those from the southern part of the main breeding range, in the northern and western parts of the Lower 48 states, migrate shorter distances; in recent years they have shown a trend toward migrating later in fall and earlier in spring, and some are now overwintering farther north than in the past. Populations nesting in Mississippi, Florida, and Cuba do not migrate.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA loud rattling kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Sandhill Crane
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Sandhill Crane
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.