Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

Sandhill Crane

About the Bird

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Seen/Heard at
Decorah North, Mississippi River Flyway

The omnivorous Sandhill Crane feeds on land or in shallow marshes where plants grow out of the water. Their diet varies widely with location, season, and food availability, but may include the roots of aquatic plants, seeds, grain, berries, tubers, rodents, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds.

Sandhill Cranes use cattails, sedges, burr reeds, bulrushes, and grasses to build their nests, using dried plant materials early in the season and adding green materials later on. After building a foundation or mound of larger materials, one crane (usually the female) forms a cup-shaped hollow lined with smaller stems or twigs. Nests may be 30-40 inches across and 4-6 inches high. In non-migratory populations, egg-laying can happen any time between December and August. In migratory populations, Sandhill Cranes usually lay their eggs in April and May. Their eggs are a pale brownish-yellow to olive, with irregular brown or grey markings. They lay one to three eggs per clutch and produce one brood per year. Both parents incubate eggs for 29-32 days, and young leave the nest shortly after hatching. To learn more, visit Cornell’s website.

Citations and attributions
Bird Range Maps of North America
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003.
Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy – Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International – CABS, World Wildlife Fund – US, and Environment Canada – WILDSPACE.
Web Link:
Image of Sandhill Crane: – Own work, CC BY 3.0,
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General Description
Sandhill Cranes are large, tall birds with long necks, long legs, and broad wings. Adults are gray, with red foreheads, white cheeks, and long, dark, pointed bills that are longer than their heads. In flight, their long, dark legs trail behind, and their long necks keep straight. Males are larger and heavier than females.Immature birds have reddish-brown upperparts and gray underparts.

Spring and fall migrant through Decorah, Iowa and on the Mississippi River near Great Spirit Bluff.

Length: 47.2 in/120 cm
Weight: 119.9-172.8 oz/3400-4900 g
Wingspan: 78.7 in/200 cm

Wing Design
Passive soaring wings. The broad and relatively long wings of Sandhill Cranes allow high lift, low-speed soaring, and slow descents.
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Range Map

Range Map