About 40-48 inches (100-120 cm) tall with a wingspan of 6-7 feet
(2-2.33 m). This is a long-legged, long-necked grey bird that is
often stained rust. The head features a bald red crown, while the
rear features a bustle where the feathers are tufted over the
rump. The young colt is brown. In flight, the neck is extended
and the wings beat with an upward flick (Peterson, 1990). The
bill is 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) long (Ligon, 1961).
Grus canadensis is found on the prairies, in fields and
marshes, and on the tundra (Peterson, 1990). Shallow wetlands and
agricultural fields are preferred in the non-breeding season
(Perrins and Middleton, 1985).
This species is found primarily from western and central Alaska,
northern Yukon, northern Mackenzie, Banks Island, northern
Keewatin, southern Devon Island, and Baffin Island south to
southern Alaska, Oregon, northeastern California, northeastern
Nevada, north-central Utah, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado,
South Dakota, southern Minnesota, northern Illinois, southern
Michigan, western Ontario, and western Quebec. The Sandhill
Crane winters from central California, Sonora, southeastern
Arizona, central New Mexico, western and southern texas, the Gulf
Coast, and southern Georgia south to northern Baja California,
Sinaloa, Jalisco, the state of M‚xico, Distrito Federal,
Veracruz, and central Florida (American Ornithologists' Union,
The Sandhill Crane is omnivorous, eating insects, small fish, and
other small animals (Perrins and Middleton, 1985). During the
winter, cultivated grains, as well as green sprouts of wheat and
corn, are preferred (Leopold, et al., 1981).
The nest is a platform in shallow water or in short grass. The
female lays one to three white to heavily pigmented eggs. They
are incubated for 28-36 days (Forbush and May, 1955). Cranes take
several years to mature; when they do, they mate for life. Both
the male and female incubate the clutch and defend the brood.
Usually only one colt survives; if two survive, it is because
each parent is responsible for the feeding, care, and defense of
only one colt (Leopold, et al., 1981).
The Sandhill Crane is also known as the Brown Crane, Blue Crane,
and Turkey. These birds are extremely fearful of man and will try
to flee; however, if unable to escape, they become very
aggressive and protective. They are capable of driving their bill
through a person's eye and into the brain (Forbush and May,
1955). Some cranes have lived in captivity into their 70s and 80s
(Perrins and Middleton, 1985). The voice is a shrill
garoo-a-a-a, repeated (Peterson, 1990).
American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North
American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.
Forbush, E. H., and J. B. May. 1955. A natural history of
American birds of eastern and central North America. Bramhall
House, New York, 552 pp.
Leopold, A. S., R. J. Gutierrez, M. T. Bronson. 1981. North
American game birds and mammals. Charles Scribner's Sons, New
York, 198 pp.
Ligon, J. S. 1961. New Mexico birds and where to find them. The
University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 360 pp.
Perrins, C. M. and A. L. A. Middleton, eds. 1985. The
encyclopedia of birds. Equinox, Ltd., Oxford, 447 pp.
Peterson, R. T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.
Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.