South Dakota
Birds and Birding
Like this page? Give me a +1!!

Sandhill Crane

Grus canadensis

Length: 36 to 48 inches Wingspan: 70 to 90 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Gray body, red forehead area, white cheeks and upper throat, large size

Sandhill Crane - Grus canadensisThe most common crane in the world, Sandhill Cranes are best known in this area for their yearly stopover during migration at the Platte River in south-central Nebraska, where 90% of the world's population can be found in the early spring.  Different races of Sandhill Cranes may exhibit a fairly large variation in size.  The most common of the migrating races are generally stable or increasing in population, but non-migratory populations in Mississippi and Cuba are endangered.

Habitat: Prefers to breed in or around a variety of marshy areas.  During winter and migration, they can spend much of their time feeding on waste grain in agricultural fields. 

Diet: Omnivorous, feeding on a wide variety of items including waste grain, seeds, roots and other plant material, frogs, various mollusks and crustaceans, small rodents, snakes, lizards, and large insects.  The diet can vary tremendously between locations and at different seasons.

Behavior: Gregarious outside of breeding season, found in sometimes extremely large flocks.  During breeding season, family groups are typically scattered and distinct.

Nesting: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Sandhill Crane Song

Migration: Summers throughout much of Canada, Alaska, the Great Lakes region, and locally in the northwestern U.S. There also are breeding populations in Siberia.  Winters in the extreme southern U.S. and points south.

Similar Species: Generally distinctive.  The only other large crane found in South Dakota is the Whooping Crane in migration.

Conservation Status: Local (non-migratory) races in some locations (such as Mississippi) are endangered.  Most populations are stable or increasing, however.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Sandhill Crane

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Sandhill Crane

3) - Sandhill Crane

Photo Information: August 2007 -Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Sandhill Crane photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Sandhill Crane
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in the western and central part of the state, much less numerous in the east.