34-48" (86-122 cm). Gray with bare red patch on crown; often stained with rust from wetlands rich in iron. Long, straight neck; long, dark legs. Immatures are brown.
Similar Species- Immature Whooping Crane
Gives a long, hollow, rolling garooooooo, audible at great distances
Breeds from northern Alaska and middle arctic Canada, south locally to northeastern California, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Also breeds in southeastern United States. Winters from southern U.S., south to central Mexico.
Found in open grasslands, marshes, marshy edges of lakes and ponds, river banks, and, occasionally, pine savannas.
Feeds on roots, tubers, seeds, grain, berries, earthworms, insects, and small vertebrates (mice, lemmings, birds, snakes, lizards, etc.). Young forage for invertebrates during first few weeks of life. Idaho study found plants made up 73% of diet by volume, with insects and earthworms constituting 27%.
Usually builds concealed nest on ground surrounded by water, or in undisturbed location. roosts at night along river channels, on alluvial islands of braided rivers, or in natural basin wetlands. Communal roost site along open expanse of shallow water is key feature of wintering habitat. Often feeds and rests in fields and agricultural lands; also forages in marshes. Flocks in winter. Mean territory size in Idaho study was 17 ha. Highest reported density is Grays Lake, Idaho -- 200 pairs/10,000 ha. Grays Lake birds migrate in September and October to New Mexico and Arizona.
Nesting occurs in Idaho from late April-early July. Nests with eggs can be found from: late February-late May in Florida (mean laying date mid-March); April in mid-U.S.; and mid-May in northern range. Both sexes, in turn, incubate usually 2 eggs for 28-30 days. Idaho study found 78% nest success; mean brood size at hatching and fledging was 1.8 and 1.3, respectively. Both parents tend young, which fly at about 2 mo, and remain with parents until following year. Pair usually renests if clutch is lost or abandoned (interval between clutches is 18-20 days in Florida). Usually, only 1 chick survives to fledging. May pair as early as 3 yr, but more commonly at 5-6 yr; in mid-continental North America, most recruitment is by cranes older than 7 yr.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Important State References:
Mullins, W.H. and E.G. Bizeau. 1978. Summer foods of sandhill cranes in Idaho. Auk 95:175-178.