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Sandhill Crane

From Opus

Subspecies A. c. pratensis Photo © by raulqcLake Worth, Florida, USA,  17 July 2005
Subspecies A. c. pratensis
Photo © by raulqc
Lake Worth, Florida, USA, 17 July 2005
Antigone canadensis

Grus canadensis


[edit] Identification

L. 34-48" (86-122 cm) W. 6' 8" (2 m)
Plumage often appears rusty because of iron stains from water of tundra ponds

  • Very tall, with long neck and legs
  • Largely grey
  • Red forehead

Immature browner, no red on head

[edit] Distribution

Photo © by NeilFairbanks, Alaska, 22 August 2006
Photo © by Neil
Fairbanks, Alaska, 22 August 2006

Breeds from Siberia and Alaska east across Arctic Canada and the United States.

Winters to southern US and Cuba.

[edit] Taxonomy

Also placed in the genus Grus.

[edit] Subspecies

Courtship dancingPhoto © by Joseph MorlanStaten Island, Thornton, California, 17 November 2017
Courtship dancing
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Staten Island, Thornton, California, 17 November 2017

There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • A. c. canadensis:
  • A. c. rowani:
  • A. c. tabida:
  • A. c. pulla:
  • Gulf Coast of southern US
  • A. c. pratensis:
  • A. c. nesiotes:
  • Cuba and Isle of Pines

[edit] Habitat

JuvenilePhoto © by ProavisMalabar Scrub Sanctuary, Malabar, Florida, 20 April 2019
Photo © by Proavis
Malabar Scrub Sanctuary, Malabar, Florida, 20 April 2019

Large freshwater marshes, prairie ponds, and marshy tundra; also on prairies and grainfields during migration and in winter.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Diet

They have a very varied diet which changes with seasonal availability. Items generally consumed consist of tubers, corms, berries, acorns, corn, both adult and larval insects, snails, reptiles, amphibians, nestlings and small mammals.

[edit] Breeding

The mating dance of the Sandhill Crane is spectacular. Facing each other, members of a pair leap into the air with wings extended and feet thrown forward. Then they bow to each other and repeat the performance, uttering loud croaking calls. Courting birds also run about with their wings outstretched and toss tufts of grass in the air.

The nest is a large mound of grass and aquatic plants in an undisturbed marsh.The clutch contains two buff eggs, spotted with brown.

[edit] Migration

These cranes migrate in great flocks and assemble in vast numbers at places like the Platte River in Nebraska. Here it is possible to see what must have been a common sight when the species bred over most of the interior United States.

[edit] Vocalisation

Voice: A loud rattling kar-r-r-r-o-o-o

[edit] Conservation Status

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane, G. c. pulla, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Mississippi. Apparently the Sandhill Crane was always more numerous than the larger Whooping Crane, and the fact that it breeds mostly in the remote Arctic has saved it from the fate of its relative. But it is sensitive to human disturbance, and the draining of marshes has reduced nesting populations in the United States.

The Mississippi subspecies declined in the mid-20th century when its preferred savannah habitat was planted over with slash pines. Commercial and residential development, the building of highways, pollution, and other factors have caused further deterioration to the habitat. Most of the current crane population and its habitat are protected in the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. The Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the southeast may be able to sustain a second population of cranes.[2]

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from
  2. Archibald, G.W., Meine, C.D. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 14 February 2020).
  3. All About Birds
  4. Gerber, B. D., J. F. Dwyer, S. A. Nesbitt, R. C. Drewien, C. D. Littlefield, T. C. Tacha, and P. A. Vohs (2014). Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  5. Ivey, G., Herziger, C. Sandhill Crane Monitoring at Staten Island 2002-03 PDF.

[edit] Recommended Citation

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