The Sandhill crane is the world's most abundant crane species. They are big birds and have long necks and legs, impressive wingspans, and long pointed beaks. Adults are gray with crowns of red. Juveniles are also gray but are washed with brown. In the breeding season, the adult's gray plumage is often mud-stained brown. A "bustle", which goes over the short tail, is made up of long, drooping wing feathers (inner secondaries and tertials.)
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Wading birds forage along shorelines and mudflats searching for small aquatic prey crawling or burrowing in the mud and sand. These birds live in w...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Soaring birds can maintain flight without wing flapping, using rising air currents. Many gliding birds are able to "lock" their extended wings by m...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Monogamy is a form of relationship in which both the male and the female has only one partner. This pair may cohabitate in an area or territory for...
Flocking birds are those that tend to gather to forage or travel collectively. Avian flocks are typically associated with migration. Flocking also ...
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
The large range of the Sandhill crane extends throughout North America, going from northern Canada to northern Mexico. Some also live in Cuba and the very north-eastern parts of Siberia. Sandhill cranes are partially migratory; the southern populations stay near their breeding sites all year, while others migrate to the Southwestern United States and Mexico. Sandhill cranes live in a variety of types of open habitats, mainly in freshwater wetlands like bogs, fens, and sedge meadows, as well as pine savanna, grasslands, and cultivated areas.
Sandhill cranes are diurnal birds. They usually live in pairs and family groups. They sometimes join up with non-mated cranes in survival groups, to roost and feed together. When an avian predator approaches, the Sandhill crane flies at it, kicking it with its feet. When the predator is a mammal, it will move towards it, with its wings spread, and points its bill at it. If it is not scared off, the crane then attacks, hissing, stabbing with its bill, and kicking with its feet. Sandhill cranes communicate mainly by means of vocalizations and physical displays. Adults can make more than a dozen different calls, which have been described as types of "trills", "purrs" and "rattles". They frequently give a loud, trumpeting call that suggests a rolled "r" in the throat, and they can be heard from a long distance. Mated pairs of cranes engage in "unison calling". The cranes stand close together, calling in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes two calls for every one from the male.
Sandhill cranes are mainly herbivorous, but eat various types of food, depending on availability. They readily eat cultivated foods such as corn, wheat, cottonseed, and sorghum. Waste corn is useful to cranes preparing for migration, providing them with nutrients for the long journey. Among northern races of Sandhill cranes, their diet is most varied, especially among breeding birds. They variously feed on berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians.
Sandhill cranes are monogamous. Breeding pairs usually stay together for life, maintaining their bond by performing displays of courtship, remaining near to each other, and calling in unison. In populations that do not migrate, eggs are laid any time from December to August. The migratory sandhill cranes usually lay in April and May. The adults both build the nest, with plant material from their surrounding area. 1 to 3 eggs are laid and both parents incubate them, for 29 to 32 days. Chicks are precocial, being covered in down when they hatch, with eyes open and able to exit their nest within 24 hours. The chicks are brooded for as long as 3 weeks after they hatch. The parents feed the young intensively during the first few weeks, with decreasing frequency until the chicks reach independence at around 9 or 10 months. The young can begin breeding from between 2 and 7 years of age.
Development around the Sandhill crane's staging and wintering grounds could have a major detrimental effect on the migrant birds. As large numbers of them are concentrated in relatively small areas, these birds are especially vulnerable to threats like habitat degradation and loss. Many cranes are also hunted for food. Human disturbance during incubation and the rearing of chicks results in the abandonment of nests and the loss of young birds.
The total population number of the Sandhill crane is around 670,000-830,000 individuals, which roughly equates to 450,000-550,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.
Sandhill cranes impact the species they prey upon. Young or sick cranes provide food for predators.