All About The Sandhill Crane: Tallest of North America

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 17th November 2023

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) walking at Kissimmee, Florida
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) walking at Kissimmee, Florida | WMarissen via iSiock

You might not know it, but North America is home to the tallest bird on the continent! The sandhill crane.

Additionally, these birds are known for their long necks, legs, and red crowns.

Cranes are excellent flyers and can travel great distances.

They are also very good at running and swimming.

Sandhill cranes mate for life and build their nests in marshes or wet meadows.

Read on to learn more exciting facts about these amazing creatures!

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Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

Description and Appearance

The sandhill crane (Grus Canadensis) is a tall, long-legged bird with a long neck and bill.

Adults are grey with white breasts and bellies with red crowns on their heads.

Their wings are grey with black wingtips and long black tails.

Sandhill cranes mate for life, and both parents help to raise their young.

sandhill crane
Photo: GummyBone via Getty Images

The cranes build their nests on the ground using materials such as straw, reeds, or even scraps of cloth.

The female lays two eggs, which hatch after about 30 days.

The chicks are born with brown down, but they quickly develop the adult plumage.

Sandhill cranes typically live for nearly 20 years in the wild.

The sandhill crane is an impressive bird, standing up to four feet tall and with a wingspan of six to seven feet.

These birds are found across North America, from Alaska and Canada to Florida.

They usually inhabit wetlands and marshy areas, but they can also be found in fields, prairies, and even near airports!

Sandhill cranes are omnivorous birds, feeding on plant matter and small animals.

Gage Beasley's Crane Stuffed Plush Toy
Gage Beasley’s Crane Stuffed Plush Toy

You may see them migrating in large flocks northward to their breeding grounds in the springtime.

These majestic creatures are indeed a sight to behold!


The Sandhill Crane has a fascinating diet.

They are primarily herbivores but will also eat small animals, including amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, rodents, and carrion.

Their diet varies depending on the season and their location.

When they are breeding in the spring and summer, they primarily eat plants.

Sandhill Cranes and with their chicks feeding
Sandhill Cranes and with their chicks feeding | Bkamprath vi iStock

This includes leaves, stems, roots, seeds, berries, and fruits.

They will also eat wetland plants, such as cattails and bulrushes.

Their diet shifts to include more animals in the fall and winter when they migrate south.

This is because there are fewer plants available during this time of year.

Sandhill Cranes have been known to travel over 1,000 miles daily to find food.

As a result of their varied diet, the Sandhill Crane is an integral part of the food chain.

The Sandhill Crane has many predators, including coyotes, foxes, and owls.

The best way for the crane to protect itself is by using its powerful legs to run away or fly away.


Sandhill crane couple in snow
Sandhill crane couple in snow | Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve via Wikimedia Public Domain

The sandhill crane is a monogamous bird, meaning they mate for life.

The male and female work together to build a nest on the ground, using whatever materials are available.

The sandhill crane has a life cycle that is similar to other birds.

They hatch from an egg, grow into a chick, develop into an adult, and then reproduce.

The female lays two eggs, and both parents help to raise the chicks.

The eggs hatch after about 30 days and the chicks are born with brown down.

They quickly develop adult plumage. Sandhill cranes typically live for about 20 years in the wild.

During their lifetime, they will migrate back and forth between their breeding ground and their wintering grounds.


The Sandhill Crane is one of the most widespread of all North American birds.

It can be found in various habitats, including prairies, wetlands, and even arctic tundra.

The Sandhill Crane has two main breeding populations in North America: one in the central United States and the other in Alaska and Canada.

The two populations are separated by almost 3,000 miles of open country, yet they share many similarities in appearance and behavior.

The Sandhill Crane is a migratory bird that travels to different areas depending on the season.

In the spring and summer, they breed in wetlands and marshy areas of North America.

In the fall and winter, they migrate south to their wintering grounds in Florida.

They usually travel in large flocks, sometimes seen flying in a V-shaped formation.

The sandhill crane is a famous bird for birdwatchers and photographers.

They are easily recognizable by their long legs and redhead and have a distinct call that can often be heard from far away.

These magnificent creatures will surely be impressed if you’re lucky enough to see a sandhill crane in the wild!

Conservation Status

sandhill crane
Photo: moose henderson via Getty Images

The bird is not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, but that could change in the future.

The main threats to the sandhill crane are loss of habitat and hunting.

Developing and destroying wetlands and other habitats is the biggest threat to the sandhill crane.

They also face the danger of being hunted, which can significantly reduce their population size.

Fortunately, laws are in place to protect the sandhill crane from being hunted or killed.

The sandhill crane is considered a “species of conservation concern” by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, meaning that they are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered in the future.

There are many conservation efforts underway to help protect this beautiful bird.

Other Interesting Facts

A Greater sandhill crane performing a courtship dance with its wingspan in full display
A Greater sandhill crane performing a courtship dance with its wingspan in full display | USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Wikimeida CC BY 2.0 DEED

Here are some fun facts about the sandhill crane:

  1. The sandhill crane is one of the oldest bird species—fossils of the sandhill crane date back 2.5 million years.
  2. The sandhill crane is one of the largest bird species in North America, with a wingspan that can reach up to seven feet.
  3. The sandhill crane is known for its loud and distinct “caw.” However, did you know that the sandhill crane also has a “purr” call to communicate with its mate and offspring?
  4. The sandhill crane mates for life and often performs elaborate dances to reaffirm their bond with their partner.
  5. Every year, over 500,000 sandhill cranes migrate to New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for winter. This spectacle attracts tens of thousands of human visitors each year who marvel at the birds in their natural habitat.
Sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge | Jason Crotty via Wikimedia CC BY 2.0 DEED

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or not, the sandhill crane is sure to impress you with its beauty and grace.

Be sure to keep an eye out for these magnificent creatures the next time you’re outdoors!


In conclusion, the sandhill crane is a fascinating bird.

Standing over three feet tall, with a nearly seven-foot wingspan, the sandhill crane is an impressive sight.

But this massive bird is not just a beautiful creature but also a remarkable survivor.

Sandhill cranes have been around for over two million years and show no signs of disappearing anytime soon.

One of the reasons for their longevity is their adaptability.

Sandhill cranes are found in many habitats, from arctic tundra to tropical mangrove swamps.

They are also highly adaptable in their diet, eating everything from insects to berries to small mammals.

The bird’s ability to adapt has enabled it to live in a wide range of habitats and even during times of environmental change.

Additionally, as we face environmental challenges in the 21st century, we could learn a lot from these amazing birds.

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