Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Bruce Bonebrake
Photo Copyright Bruce Bonebrake

The sandhill crane, Grus canadensis, breeds primarily in Alaska, northern Canada, and in the Great Lakes, but small, scattered breeding populations are also found in the northwestern United States (including northeastern Utah), the southeastern United States, and Cuba. With the exception of populations in the southeastern United States and Cuba, breeding populations migrate south to wintering grounds in the southern United States and northern Mexico.

The sandhill crane is usually found foraging in open grasslands, meadows, and marshy portions of lakes, ponds, and rivers. Its diet is diverse, consisting of roots, tubers, seeds, grain, berries, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. At night, flocks roost in open expanses of shallow water. Sandhill cranes are monogamous. Birds may breed after they reach three years of age, but pairs often do not successfully reproduce until they reach five or six years of age. Nests are usually constructed on the ground or over shallow water. Females typically lay two eggs in the spring, following elaborate courtship rituals. Male and female parents share incubation duties during the day, but females incubate at night; eggs hatch after 29 to 32 days. Young leave the nest with the parents shortly after hatching, and forage on their own within a day of hatching. They are able to fly after about two months, but they usually remain with the parents until the following year. Although two eggs are laid, it is uncommon for more than one chick to survive to adulthood. If a nest is lost, the parents often will re-nest.


  • Tacha, T. C., S. A. Nesbitt, and P. A. Vohs. 1992. Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis). Birds of North America 31: 24 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.